Report: Half trillion needed to update schools

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.

The green schools’ report — and price tag — takes those into account but also expands the definition to include energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, sufficient electrical outlets in classrooms and enough energy to power equipment such as computers.

“As sad as it sounds, that’s a realistic number,” said Barbara Worth, director of strategic and private development at the Council of Educational Facility Planners International. “Most of the buildings in this country are over 50 years old and they were not built to last.”

National surveys of school facilities have been few and far between.

The last GAO report came in 1995 and the one before that was in 1965, Clinton wrote in his introductory letter to the report. The report that came on his watch indicated 15,000 schools were circulating air deemed unfit to breathe.

“Nothing was done since then, obviously,” said Worth, with the trade group that represents school facility planners. “They are in deplorable shape, they’re unhealthy.”

Clinton said the time has passed for action.

“Nearly 20 years later, in a country where public education is meant to serve as the great equalizer for all of its children, we are still struggling to provide equal opportunity when it comes to the upkeep, maintenance and modernization of our schools and classrooms,” Clinton wrote in his introduction to the report.

“Every day we let pass without addressing inefficient energy practices, poor indoor air quality and other problems associated with unhealthy learning environments, we are passing up tremendous opportunities. … I’m optimistic that by working together, we can give our children the best possible education and make America the world’s greatest innovator for generations to come,” Clinton wrote.

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