For the past several years, HSC has partnered with Critical Exposure and the 21st Century School Fund to present Through Your Lens, a photo contest and exhibit that provides a forum for students, teachers and people in the community to document the reality of our nation’s school building conditions.
One of the most striking messages the photos convey is just how many schools need so many basic repairs. In addition to photos showing wonderful spaces that truly support learning, we’ve received hundreds of photos documenting leaky roofs, broken windows, moldy walls – the type of fundamental problems that undermine learning and actually threaten the health of the students and teachers who spend their days at school.
Part of the problem, of course, is a lack of funding for school building maintenance and repair. This is a massive issue (the national backlog of school repairs is estimated to be in the range of $200 billion), especially as states and school districts face budget cuts across the board and postpone facility repairs rather than make further cuts to classroom budgets.
We’ve advocated for the federal government to step in with funding to address this basic need. So we were glad to see an opinion piece in last week’s Washington Post outlining a proposal that would bring much-needed repairs to our nation’s schools as part of a jobs-creation initiative. The authors, including Mary Filardo of the 21st Century School Fund, write:
Fix America’s Schools Today is a proposal — from the 21st Century School Fund, the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities — to address the backlog of repairs at the nation’s 100,000 public schools. It’s an idea that efficiently marries big problems to a big solution.
One big problem is that most school districts in our country have been deferring maintenance and repairs for years. The has led to inefficient, and thus expensive, energy use, unsafe drinking water, mold, poor air quality, inadequate fire safety systems and structural dangers. With local governments hammered by the recession, school districts do not have the resources to address this backlog, nor will they for many years to come.
The other big problem is that after the housing bust, employment opportunities crashed for construction workers. So far this year, their unemployment rate has averaged 18 percent.
An efficient and common-sense solution is a government infrastructure program to put many of these workers back on the job fixing our nations’ schools. . . .
As its name suggests, FAST could quickly get to work fixing a vital but dangerously ignored American institution, while putting hundreds of thousands back to work and providing students with better learning environments. Such an initiative also conveys an important message to our children. It’s hard for them to square the message that we, their parents, are concerned about and committed to their educational success when we send them off to schools that are in ill-repair or even unsafe.
Broken Window, by Eveen from San Diego