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Despite decades of attention in headlines and news articles, deferred maintenance continues to plague K-12 school districts nationwide. But the data behind the headlines reveals that the issue does not affect all school districts equally.
A CBS News analysis of federal data found school districts with more Black students were able to invest far less money in buildings than majority-White districts, and often-unequal funding practices by state governments can make the problem worse.
Majority-Black districts are often less funded — and as a result have less to invest in capital projects — than districts with more White students. For example, Druid Hills High is part of DeKalb County Public Schools, a suburban Atlanta district where CBS News found one of the starkest examples of unequal school building investment.
Between 2015 and 2020, the DeKalb County School District invested about $961 in its buildings for each student enrolled. In comparison, City Schools of Decatur — a smaller, wealthier and majority-White public charter district completely encircled by the larger county district — invested more than $3,500 per student in buildings during those five years
Experts say funding is needed to help make up gaps like these. But the opposite happened in the case of DeKalb County Public Schools and Decatur. Federal data shows DeKalb County schools received about $132 per student from the state for "capital outlay" — money used to acquire land or renovate buildings — and other long-term spending. Decatur got $345 per student.
Dan Hounsell is senior editor for the facilities market. He has more than 30 years of experience writing about facilities maintenance, engineering and management.
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