I was visiting our new city to choose where to live, I started by choosing the
school. Someone gave me a tip that ironically had nothing to do with observing
how well the school taught the 3 R's or how well-behaved the kids seemed. He
told me to avoid a school with broken glass outside, messy grounds, lightbulbs
out inside, and so forth. The idea was that negligent building maintenance
implied negligence in the academic focus. I really believe that. Is it borne
out by statistics?
Yes! And it
has nothing to do with how much money is spent per pupil. If the buildings and
grounds are not well-maintained, there's a direct connection with
lower-than-expected test scores, no matter what the size of the school budget,
or the demographics of the children and their families, might be.
District of Columbia public schools. They are known to have some of the worst
student achievement, and yet some of the highest spending per pupil in the
country, at upwards of $13,000 per pupil per year. Nevertheless, D.C.
officials said recently that they need an additional $120 million for heating,
air conditioning, plumbing and electrical work to make the city's schools fit
to hold classes.
About $80 million had just been spent on a "blitz" of repairs at
half of the city's 141 schools, and officials need the additional money for
repairs to the other half, said Allen Y. Lew, executive director of the Office
of Public Education Facilities Modernization.
He said there was a years-old backlog of repair orders. Not one year old -
That's the sort of management of building facilities that parents and
taxpayers DON'T want to see.
While it is obvious that rising fuel prices are pushing school district
utility and transportation costs through the roof, a sure sign of a well-run
district is one that does not have sudden spikes in maintenance costs. Why? Because
it has a systematic plan in operation for gradually upgrading and improving
district facilities. That's good management, and taxpayers should expect no
School facilities have many key issues that affect the health, safety and
attentiveness of both students and staff in schools as well as having a huge
impact on school spending patterns:
Indoor air quality
Sufficient energy for technology
Severe weather preparedness
. . . and much, much more.
Homework: Here's a comprehensive federal
government report, "Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities," with
many links to articles and publications on individual topics: