Are America’s school buildings in bad shape?

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout

Last Thursday, President Obama called for $25 billion to modernize 35,000 of the country's aging school buildings as part of his $450 billion American Jobs Act plan. And regardless of the prospects for the passage of Obama's plan, it's worth asking: Does attending a run-down school affect students' achievement levels?

The average K-12 building in the United States is 40 years old, according to the nonprofit 21st Century School Fund; and the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation's public school buildings a D grade in 2009. It would cost at least $270 billion to bring the nation's schools into good repair, according to Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post.

And according to one analysis, the disrepair of the nation's schools is hurting kids' academic achievement.

The 21st Century School Fund released a report earlier this year claiming that an analysis of 20 studies showed "a positive correlation between the achievement of students and the condition of the school facility," after controlling for student demographics. The study found a correlation between shoddy school infrastructure and higher drop-out rates and lower attendance.

"How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school—and we can give it to them, if we act now," Obama said last week.

But not everyone is swayed by that argument.

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chair John Kline (R-MN) blasted the plan, according to EdWeek. "More stimulus spending is not the right solution to our nation's job crisis," he said. "Common sense tells us that putting the federal government in the business of school construction will only lead to higher costs and more regulations."