K-12 Facilities Leaders Make Case for More Federal Funding

Crumbling buildings across the country in serious need of addressing to upgrade HVAC, other systems   April 5, 2023

By Dave Lubach, Managing Editor

Crumbling school buildings across the country are in serious need of an infusion of revenue to stem what is emerging as a major crisis in the K-12 realm. 

Education Week reported that school facilities officials from across the country recently visited Capitol Hill to update lawmakers on the need for federal investment in school buildings, which are lacking enough incoming revenue to fund improvements. According to the article, the last significant federal investment in school buildings was during the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s. 

The briefing brought facilities officials from Maryland, Rhode Island, and West Virginia to discuss the issues, which are particularly affecting school districts in low-income and rural areas. Rising labor costs and dwindling revenues have prevented districts from making simple upgrades such as ensuring the availability of drinkable running water and HVAC upgrades. 

The leaders argued that the failing buildings are a serious enough problem that can threaten students’ standing with peers around the world.  

“It’s not just a local issue,” Mike Pickens, executive director of the National Council on School Facilities and a former top facilities official in West Virginia, told Education Week. “If we’re going to compete in a global market and economy, the federal government has to be involved.” 

The article cited examples of where school building funding is coming up short: 

The country spends $85 billion less than what’s needed to modernize and provide maintenance to over 100,000 school buildings, according to the 2021 State of Our Schools report. 

The $85 billion increased from $46 billion in only five years.  

The Inflation Reduction Act has helped address some of the issues, including improving indoor air quality, but the facilities officials called for advocated doubling federal grant programs from $23 million to $50 million. 

“Education is the foundation,” Joseph da Silva, school construction coordinator at the Rhode Island School Building Authority, told Education Week. “If we don’t do it at the federal level soon, I fear we’re going to reach a point where it’s really difficult to bounce back.” 

Dave Lubach is managing editor of the facilities market.  


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