POLICY (Federal Policy)
Record investments in school construction passed by far too many children during the last 10 years. Schools that were in run-down buildings with health and safety issues a decade ago are likely to serve children in the same, dilapidated condition today. While federal policies strive to set high academic standards for all children, we have no federal standards for high quality school buildings. A shift in federal and state policy, funding and accountability is needed to support high quality school facilities.
While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) extended tax credit programs for school district school construction projects, there are almost no federal grant funds for PK-12 public school repair, modernizaton or construction projects, leaving low wealth school districts unable to provide adequate public school facilities.
To provide federal funds to support states and local districts to ensure that all children have healthy, safe and educationally adequate school facilities. Particularly where schools are in the worst condition and where students have the greatest need.
Through No Child Left Behind, the federal government increased accountability measures for educators but provided no large-scale relief for school districts whose facilities need support. The law’s major objectives are to close achievement gaps and boost the performance of low-income and minority students; the law also acknowledges the importance of teachers, governance, curriculum and standards in this process. No Child Left Behind, however, is stunningly silent on the importance of educational facilities in reaching this goal. At the state level, there is a dearth of policy and minimal involvement in helping school districts provide adequate facilities for students and teachers. To close the achievement gap, improvement of school building quality should be an integral part of closing the disparity gap, and should be an explicit objective of federal education law, including No Child Left Behind. Part of the debate of the reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act should recognize safe, healthy, environmentally responsible, and educationally adequate school facilities for all children.