There’s a new report out that shows the conditions of our schools across the nation is pretty poor:
WASHINGTON — America’s schools are in such disrepair that it would cost more than $270 billion just to get elementary and secondary buildings back to their original conditions and twice that to get them up to date, a report released Tuesday estimated.
Horror stories abound about schools with roofs that leak, plumbing that backs up and windows that do little to stop winds.
I have little doubt that the report is accurate, at least in direction if not in total value.
Where is the failure occurring?
The report does not assign blame for schools’ disrepair but the problems often start at the local and state levels. In most cases, schools are funded by local property taxes and they are reliant on their neighbors’ wealth and willingness to fund their schools. A National Center for Education Statistics found large disparities between schools in areas of high poverty and those in more affluent areas.
This shouldn’t surprise us; school districts are local affairs and, as such, responsibility falls to those at the local levels.
I would occur to me that the solution to this problem is going to fall into one of two areas – local and state or the federal government. Well, the folks that are featured in this interview have their ideas:
“We have a moral obligation,” said Rachel Gutter, director of the group affiliated with the U.S. Green Building Council. “When we talk about a quality education, we talk about the “who” and the “what” — teachers and curriculum — but we don’t talk about the “where.” That needs to change.”
Her organization is urging the Education Department to collect annual data on school buildings’ sizes and ages, as well as property holdings. The group also wants the Education Department’s statistics branch to keep tabs on utility and maintenance bills.
It’s hard to argue that schools in areas of poverty are not only functionally poor but structurally deficient as well. And the solution to that is tricky. I break with a lot of conservatives on education; I DO think that the role of government is to care for our kids. However, I’m not convinced that a federal program is what we’re after. For example, I don’t have much of a problem funding schools federally in some way, but I do fear the extremists who are allowed to insert their version of what a good school is and what that means.
The alternative? The individual state or school district. But there isn’t a lot of hope there either. The obvious solution is public funding of private schools for each kid, but the power of the school boards and teacher’s unions is such that public delivery of education seems here to stay.