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Report: Big-City Districts Need Substantial Repair Work

Schools in some of the nation's largest districts need plumbing, roof, and ventilation system repairs, safety upgrades and other repairs and refurbishment to the tune of more than $76 billion, according to a recent report from The Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of 65 of the largest urban districts in the country.

The report, released this month, was based on a survey of the council's member districts; 50 members responded. If dollars were available, the report says that the responding school districts said they could begin meeting 18 percent of their new construction needs and 12 percent of their repair, renovation and modernization needs within a year. From the findings:

....the 50 districts could begin spending $12.5 billion in facility projects or about 16 percent of total needs within one year of receipt of funds if they were available.

Because of the array of functions performed by school districts, this level of activity in the first year of aid would support over 165,000 construction jobs in a wider variety of occupations—masons, pavers, plumbers, electricians, [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] specialists, painters, security experts, carpenters, roofers, and other trades—than investment in almost any other sector of the economy.

The Council's districts include some of the nation's oldest and most-overcrowded schools. The 42,000-student East Baton Rouge district, for example, says that it could spend about $226 million replacing five old schools and building two new ones. The 409,000-student Chicago district says it has $1.9 billion in major building system repair needs.


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used the report as a rationale for supporting President Obama's American Jobs Act, which the administration says will bolster a sagging economy and improve public infrastrucure around the country.

"Our children only get one shot at a good education. They deserve better than crumbling school buildings and half-century-old science labs. This report is further proof that America's schools critically need the funds proposed by the President in the American Jobs Act," Duncan said in a statement.

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