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POLICY (Funding Allocation for School Building Improvements and/or New Construction)

The State should establish a process and procedure that allocates funding for school building improvements and/or new construction according to need on an equitable and fair basis throughout the State and within school districts.

Because need is difficult to define, most states use measures that can be objectively evaluated such as student population, student enrollment, district income/wealth, changes the districtís overall population, average daily attendance, and property value. A few use building assessments or age and building square footage in combination with one or more of the preceding factors. One state uses cooperation between districts as an incentive. Some have much more complicated combinations of factors including the type of space needed, a review of prior state funding, state and local priorities, community use, estimated project cost, and the schedule for the proposed project.

Although objectivity should be the primary consideration, there should also be some subjective judgment in the final decision making process. It is extremely difficult to review several hundred projects and assign a rank order to them for funding purposes. This is particularly true when comparing the need for new schools in districts experiencing rapid enrollment increases with other districts with older buildings in need of major renovations. Some projects more easily rise to the top. However, an established written process that is clearly stated needs to be made available to all applicants and used to evaluate the applications and make the final decisions. Clearly, poorer districts with serious, urgent problems in meeting the educational adequacy goal should receive funds for their projects on an equitable basis.

The subjective aspect of the evaluation requires knowledge of individual districts and knowledge of their facilities. It may also require an independent evaluation of the proposals for adequacy and completeness. Perhaps separate projects submitted for the same school should be considered as a package rather than as discrete projects, which making these projects more economical and less disruptive at the school.

State programs should provide a mechanism for appeals to resolve questions and/or concerns related to school construction requests. This could include specific decisions regarding the approval and funding of projects, the scope of work eligible for state financial assistance, and the level or percentage of state assistance for a specific project. Resolving matters in a timely fashion should be of the utmost importance to states and school districts. Delays in moving projects forward often result in higher costs to all parties.

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