School Facilities

Condition of America's Schools Gao ID: HEHS-95-61 February 1, 1995

GAO surveyed school officials across the country on the physical condition of their facilities. The survey projects that the nations' elementary and secondary schools need about $112 billion in repairs and upgrades to restore them to good condition. Although two-thirds of America's schools are reported to be in good overall condition, about 14 million students attend schools needing extensive repair or replacement. Also, problems with major building features, such as plumbing, are widespread even among schools said to be in adequate shape. Nearly 60 percent of America's schools reported at least one major building element in disrepair; most of these schools had multiple problems. In addition, about half the school officials reported at least one environmental problem in their schools, such as inadequate ventilation or poor heating and lighting; most of these schools had multiple environmental problems. Some school officials attributed the physical decline of the nation's schools to decisions by school districts to defer vital maintenance and repair expenditures from year to year due to lack of money.

GAO found that: (1) based on a national sample, the nation's schools need an estimated $112 billion to repair or upgrade their facilities to good condition; (2) two-thirds of the schools need $11 billion over the next 3 years to comply with federal mandates to make all programs accessible to all students, to remove hazardous substances, and to meet other requirements; (3) schools also need to comply with state and local health and sanitation codes, safety standards, and building codes; (4) two-thirds of the schools are in adequate or better condition and need only preventive maintenance or corrective repair; (5) about 14 million students nationwide attend the remaining one-third of schools that need extensive repair; (6) almost 60 percent of the nation's schools reported problems with at least one major building feature and about one-half of the schools have at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition such as poor ventilation or poor physical security; and (7) the major factors that contribute to inadequate school facilities include school districts' decisions to defer vital maintenance and repair expenditures because of funding constraints, unfunded federal and state mandates, and shifting population patterns.

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