According to a 2014 PBS report, more than half of the nation’s public school buildings are in bad shape, and it will take $197 billion to fix or rebuild them. Where will all the money come from to do this?
I checked, and most of the Presidential candidates on both sides have said that they will fix the country’s infrastructure including schools. Sen. Bernie Sanders talks about it the most.
But, before he took office, President Obama spoke about fixing school facilities too, and those promises were lost once he became President and Congress didn’t agree.
What if the wealthy helped fix and maintain real public school buildings?
Wealthy CEOs tend to perseverate on two general messages that fail to consider other serious factors.
- Public schools fail the poor.
- Teachers fail to teach poor children well.
They use these claims to pour their so-called philanthropy into charter schools, Teach for America, etc., to destroy democratic public schooling, disregarding the many outside factors that affect a poor child’s schooling.
I wrote about the problem of lead poisoning in children the other day. Today I am addressing another serious problem—crumbling school facilities.
If you have never worked in a rundown school building, as I’m sure none of the CEOs or politicians have done, or a school facility that is not well-maintained, than you have no idea the difficulties this creates for teachers in their attempt to teach children. Nor do you have any clue as to the problems this causes for children trying to learn.
I once worked in a school that had serious building problems which caused major disruptions to my teaching and for students. It was hell.
I have also worked in two school facilities which were newly remodeled and continuously well-maintained. I looked forward to going to work every morning. Through all of these schools I learned how important a school building can be for teachers and students. It can make a huge difference in the way the teacher provides instruction and how a student acquires knowledge.
Notice, it is the union mostly speaking out on this issue about poor facilities.
But start with what it must be like when you run across this while touring a school building–a dead mouse, children wearing their coats because the building is too cold, and a gym floor that is so warped it can’t be used.
- Spain Elementary-Middle School—Black mold, the gym floor is buckling, the swimming pool is broken, the boiler has problems and the garden is unusable because of debris.
- Thirkell Elementary-Middle School—Not enough teachers, so eighth-graders are housed in the gym and pulled out for instruction in core subjects for only an hour or so each day. The ceiling is so compromised that rain and snow pour in. Teachers get just one prep period a month.
- Osborn High School—The building is literally falling apart.
- Moses Field School (for students with severe cognitive impairment)—Boiler is broken, causing drastic temperature fluctuations; infestations of rats, other rodents, roaches and bed bugs; and no security guard.
- Palmer Park Preparatory Academy—Pieces of the ceiling are falling on kids’ heads and rats run around.
- Jerry L. White Center High School—No heat, no security guard.
- Bates Academy—Security issues, mice, heating issues, computers are broken.
- Dossin Elementary-Middle School—Standing water in classrooms, holes in the ceiling, a classroom without power due to black mold in the wiring.
Sampson Academy and Douglass Academy for Young Men—No heat.
- Ronald Brown Academy—A special education class has no textbooks; slimy growth on the walls and crumbling ceilings.
- Western International High School—Rats, roaches, not enough books, classes with 45 children.
- Golightly Education Center and Emerson Elementary-Middle School—Classes with 45 students.
- Mann Elementary School—Untrained teacher forced to administer medication to student suffering severe seizures.
So, where is Bill Gates and the many other CEOs that criticize public schools? Why don’t they address poor school facilities? Don’t they think these factors affect how a child learns?
There are also many studies showing how poor school buildings affect a student’s test results.
There used to be adequacy cases that at least attempted to make it seem like the country cared about rundown schools. Where are those lawsuits now? How about some new ones?
I know some public schools have been renovated and new schools have been built across the country, but there are many more that are still substandard. And there is also much effort on the part of CEOs to build new charter schools while traditional public schools continue to rot.
One must question whether major budget cuts to school districts and building funds were designed to permit public schools to slowly deteriorate in order for privatization to occur.
Ultimately it would be nice if we didn’t have to rely on CEOs to donate to schools–that they paid their fair share of taxes.
But you have to ask, why don’t they support democratically run public schools? Some of these individuals attended public schools themselves!
Now we see new charter buildings next to traditional crumbling school facilities—a duel system that fails everyone.
If philanthropists really had good intentions, where students are concerned, they would have seriously sat down with those involved with public schools and figured out ways to fill the monetary gaps to improve schools and support real teachers.
How sad that they failed to help address the school facility problems. It is now a lose lose situation.
I wanted to write this for the record and in honor of those teachers who struggle to teach in substandard buildings around the country, and today especially for teachers in Detroit.