Commentary: Update Philadelphia schools by amending tax credit law
Opinion - Dwight Evans, philly.com
February 9, 2017
-- Philadelphia schools recently issued a facilities report showing that the average student attends a school built in the year Brooklyn Dodger great Jackie Robinson stunned a Yankee Stadium crowd by stealing home during Game 1 of the World Series.
That was 1955.
This means our children go to the same aged, rundown K-12 facilities considered functionally obsolete by national standards a generation ago, when their parents attended the same dilapidated buildings.
The report puts a price tag on fixing this intolerable situation: $5 billion.
Philly isn't alone. A 1995 federal survey showed that the average K-12 facility across America to be similarly obsolete. And studies indicate that students forced to attend these structures lose statistically one educational year.
There has been much talk in this past year about bipartisan cooperation on a major infrastructure program. And both presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, specifically said these investments must include modernizing school facilities.
And there is already a law in place that would help get this work done.
Board approves hiring of Maryland school construction chief
Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun
February 8, 2017
-- The Board of Public Works unanimously approved Robert Gorrell on Wednesday to head Maryland's school construction program.
Gorrell, who has led New Mexico's school construction efforts, was recruited to head the Interagency Committee on School Construction after a nationwide search. State schools Superintendent Karen B. Salmon, who chairs the five-member committee, said Gorrell was the panel's unanimous choice.
The committee oversees the state's distribution of school construction money — which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars each year — to Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore City.
Will Crumbling School Buildings Get a Piece of the Infrastructure Pie?
RACHEL M. COHEN, The American Prospect
February 8, 2017
-- Public education advocates are hoping that Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan will help renovate the nation’s dilapidated schools, but lobbying for school repairs is never easy.
Paul L. Dunbar Elementary school, a historic, four-story building of orange brick located in North Philadelphia, looks solid and imposing from the outside. But inside Dunbar, water leaks from the school’s aging roof into classrooms, the windows are in need of repair, and the heating system only works some of the time.
Dunbar is one of hundreds of schools in Philadelphia and throughout the country that is literally falling apart. From fire code violations to faulty boilers that make it too hot or too cold for students to concentrate in class, structural problems plague as many as two-thirds of America’s schools. By one 2016 estimate, it would cost $145 billion a year to properly repair and maintain the nation’s school buildings.
So when President Donald Trump flagged school infrastructure investments in his first speech following the presidential election, public school advocates sat up and took notice. “We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” Trump declared. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none.”
Santa Fe voters approve $100 million bond sale for school facilities
T.S. Last, Albuquerque Journal
February 7, 2017
-- SANTA FE, N.M. — Voters in Santa Fe on Tuesday approved a $100 million general obligation bond for Santa Fe Public Schools to pay for facility improvements and construction of a new middle school, affirmed two school board members, and picked a new member to the Governing Board at Santa Fe Community College.
With 5,611 voters supporting the question, the G.O. bond was approved by 68 percent of those casting votes, according to unofficial results from the Santa Fe County clerk’s office.
Turn out for the election was better than past schools elections. The 8,274 total votes cast represented nearly 10 percent of the 83,598 eligible voters. That’s higher than 2015 when 5 percent of voters turned out for the school board election, and 2013 when 7 percent of eligible voters cast votes.
Approval of the G.O. bond means homeowners will see an increase in property taxes. Owners of property with a market value of $300,000 will pay $6.67 per month more, or $80 per year.
About two-thirds of the $100 million is earmarked for school-specific projects. The largest chuck, about $27.8 million, will be spent on a new middle school. The school board decided last year to consolidate Capshaw and De Vargas middle schools, due to declining enrollments, and open a new school on the De Vargas campus on Llano Street.
Wyoming Senate kills one ed constitutional amendment, passes another to House
Seth Klamann, Casper Star Tribune
February 7, 2017
-- CHEYENNE — Lawmakers advanced a bill to change the state Constitution in favor of legislative oversight of education spending and killed an amendment that would have spread the cost of building new schools to local districts.
The first bill, Senate Joint Resolution 9, would allow the Legislature to decide what constitutes adequate funding for statewide public education. It would bar any court from imposing “any tax or tax increase nor require any other provision of funding” other than those already prescribed by law.
Sen. Dave Kinskey, a Sheridan Republican and SJ9’s sponsor, talked Friday about the role courts have played in dictating education funding in Wyoming. In a series of landmark decisions known as the Campbell County cases, the state Supreme Court determined that education here is a fundamental constitutional right that must be equitable for every student across the state.
“It’s placing us in a position where we could be forced by the courts to raise taxes or cut other budgets,” Kinskey said. “I think this is an appropriate time for the public to weigh in on the matter, if that’s how they believe our school districts should be managed.”
Kathy Vetter, the president of the Wyoming Education Association, said last week that she didn’t support the bill.
“We have three branches of government for a reason,” she said. “It’s for separation of powers, and this is an attempt to take the judicial branch out of it.”
Sullivan County school leaders approve facilities agreement as part of consolidation plan
Justin Soto, wjhl.com
February 7, 2017
-- KINGSPORT, TN (WJHL) – School leaders voted to move forward on part of a multi-million dollar plan to turn Sullivan County’s four high schools into two.
The Sullivan County Board of Education approved a part of a school facilities plan agreement Monday that allows Kingsport City Schools to obtain the property being left behind at Sullivan North High School.
Sullivan North is one of three schools planned for closure so they can be consolidated into one new high school. In exchange for obtaining the property at Sullivan North, the city will no longer receive a $20 million dollar bond from the county.
While city and school leaders discussed the facilities plan, we spoke with a Sullivan North parent who said he doesn’t agree with the plan.
After lead scandal, Portland schools looks to longterm plan for clean water
Beth Nakamura, Oregon Live
February 7, 2017
-- Portland Public Schools has a plan to ensure all its schools have clean drinking and cooking water flowing from every fountain and cooking sink. But the safety upgrades will cost $28.5 million and take roughly three years to complete, David Hobbs, director of management at Portland Public Schools, told the school board Monday.
Oregon's largest school district shut off its drinking water over the summer after uproar over the revelation that the district had kept quiet about high levels of lead and for years given parents false assurances about the safety of school drinking water. Students and teachers at all schools are drinking from 10-gallon water dispensers until fixes are made.
Testing of water from all 10,600 of the district's fountains and faucets over the summer showed almost every school had lead in some of its water sources.
Granite seeks long-term plan to replace, renovate district's aging schools
Marjorie Cortez, Deseret News
February 6, 2017
-- SOUTH SALT LAKE — If the walls of many of Granite School District's schools could talk, the topics would likely resonate with baby boomers: the specter of the Cold War, the civil rights movement, the growing popularity of rock 'n' roll and the wonder of space travel.
That's because 44 of the district's schools are more than 50 years old. A couple even date back to the 1930s.
Not only are the buildings showing their age, ongoing facility reports by engineers indicate they require costly repairs and renovations, which can include replacing heating, cooling and lighting systems to major structural upgrades.
Sixteen of Granite District's elementary schools, four of its junior highs and the Brockbank campus of Cyprus High School each meet a threshold that 85 percent of the building needs repairs or renovation, according to the reports.
Beyond systems overhauls, many schools need significant security and seismic upgrades.
The school district's overarching goal is that in the event of an earthquake, all students, faculty and staff safely evacuate schools and that schools can be swiftly reoccupied once structural engineers give the OK, said Granite School District communications director Ben Horsley.
State officials visiting schools they could recommend closing
LINDSEY SMITH , Michigan Radio
February 5, 2017
-- State officials who announced the potential closure of 38 “priority” schools across the state are now visiting those schools. The schools on this list scored in the bottom 5% on state standardized tests for three consecutive years.
They’ll be in Kalamazoo this week.
A couple of weeks ago parents at two elementary schools in Kalamazoo got a letter in the mail from the School Reform Office. It said their kid’s school might close.
Superintendent Michael Rice says the state did not warn them the letter had gone out.
“I will tell you that simply the suggestion of this, the presence on a list, is disruptive to our children and families,” Rice said.
Rice recognizes the schools need to do better. But he thinks local school boards should decide if a school should close, not the state.
“It seems a little backwards, charitably, to make a determination about school closure and then do a site visit,” he said.
Baton Rouge school flood damage tops $60 million, but not all schools likely to be repaired
Charles Lussier, The Advocate
February 4, 2017
-- The cost of repairing flooded schools in Baton Rouge is estimated at more than $62.5 million, some repairs will take years to complete and some of the flood-damaged schools may never reopen.
That was the picture school officials painted Saturday for the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board during an all-day retreat at the Louisiana Technology Center.
The retreat was a first step in a post-flooding re-envisioning of the school system following August's historic flooding.
The board plans more retreats in the coming months as it seeks to reach greater consensus about rebuilding plans, redrawing attendance zones and determining school construction for the next decade.
August's flood forced 10 schools to relocate temporarily and forced the closure of four administrative centers.
The dislocation appears to have exacerbated a long-term decline in enrollment that is partially the result of increasing competition from charter schools. Charter schools are public schools run by private groups via charters, or contracts.
School officials say the loss in enrollment, more than 900 students below projections, is likely to reduce state per-pupil funding for the system by $5.1 million.
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