Communities across the country are struggling to address critical needs
to build new schools and renovate existing ones. School construction
and modernization are necessary to address urgent safety and facility
needs, to accommodate rising student enrollments, to help reduce class
sizes, and to make sure schools are accessible to all students and
well-equipped for the 21st century.
America's Schools Are Wearing Out
In January of 1999, the National Center for Education Statistics
(NCES) released an issue brief entitled "How Old Are America's
Schools?" NCES reported that:
The average public school in America is 42 years old, and school
buildings begin rapid deterioration after 40 years.
The oldest schools are also lagging behind other schools in the
push to connect to the Internet. While almost 60 percent of schools
built since 1985 were connected to the Internet by 1995, only 42
percent of schools in the oldest condition were connected to the
Internet by the same year.
In 1995 and 1996, the General Accounting Office (GAO) released a
series of reports on the condition of American schools. [GAO Report
Number HEHS-95-61 School Facilities: The Condition of America's
Schools] The GAO reports revealed:
According to GAO estimates, it would cost $112 billion to bring the
nation's schools into good overall condition.
The average cost of construction for new schools is $8 million for
elementary schools, and $16 million for high schools. [Council for
Educational Facility Planners International, 1997]
One-third of all public schools - about 25,000 schools - need
extensive repair or replacement. In addition, about 60 percent of
all schools (including some schools in generally adequate
condition) report needing at least one major building feature to be
replaced or extensively repaired. Over 28,000 schools have
less-than-adequate heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning
systems; over 23,000 schools have less-than-adequate plumbing; and
over 21,000 schools have less-than-adequate roofs.
Enrollments Are Rising
On August 19, 1999, the President released the Department of
Education's report entitled The Baby Boom Echo: No End in Sight. The
report, which was based on NCES data, found that:
Total public and private school enrollment will reach a record 53.2
million students this year. The 1996-97 school year was the first
year that members of Baby Boom Echo broke their parents' record
for school enrollment, and they have continued to enroll in the
record-breaking numbers every year since then. In fact, it is
expected that enrollment will continue to increase every year.
Unlike the end of the "baby boom" of the 1950s and 1960s, we will
have no respite from the current enrollment boom, as births will
begin edging up from 4.1 million in 2008 to 4.5 million in 2018.
The long-term implications of this immense wave of young people
going to school require educators and community leaders to
recognize that short-term solutions, symbolized by the ever-present
portable classrooms in countless school yards, will not be
sufficient for the task at hand.
At least 2,400 new public schools will be needed by 2003 to
accommodate rising enrollments and to relieve overcrowding, and
thousands more will be needed in following years. [NCES, 1999]
School Conditions Have an Impact on Student Achievement
A growing body of research has linked student achievement and
behavior to the physical building conditions and overcrowding.
[Impact of Inadequate School Facilities on Student Learning] For
A study of overcrowded schools in New York City found that students
in such schools scored significantly lower on both mathematics and
reading exams than did similar students in underutilized schools. In
addition, students and teachers in overcrowded schools agreed, when
asked, that overcrowding negatively effects both classroom activities
and instructional techniques. [Rivera-Batiz and Marti, 1995]
A study in the District of Columbia found that students in school
buildings that were in poor condition had achievement 11 percent below
students in schools in excellent condition and six percent below
students in schools that were in fair condition. [Edwards, 1991]
Another study of high schools in rural Virginia examined the
relationship between building condition and student achievement. The
study found that student scores on achievement tests were up to 5
percentile points lower in buildings with lower quality ratings, after
adjusting for socioeconomic status. Lower achievement was associated
with specific building condition factors such as substandard science
facilities, air conditioning, classroom furniture, more graffiti, and
noisy external environments. [Cash, 1993]
VIRGINIA NEEDS SCHOOL MODERNIZATION FUNDING
Enrollment in Virginia over the last decade increased 14.8%. From
1998 to 2008 projected state enrollment in elementary and secondary
schools is expected to increase by 62,000 students necessitating 2,480
additional classrooms. U.S. Department of Education, National Center
for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data Survey and Projections of
Education Statistics to 2008. Classroom calculation assumes 25 students
Virginia reports a $6.3 billion unmet school modernization need.
Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education 1995-96 School Facility
Status Survey, July 1996.