We all want America’s public school students to have the best academic experiences. That’s 51 million students and experiences. And as school board members, you have a unique opportunity to provide the best teachers, tools for success, and real-world experiences for our students.
School buildings are another important contribution to students’ academic experience. However, many of our facilities across the nation are more than 50 years old and need upgrades.
In 2019, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that among fourth-graders in public schools, approximately 79 percent did not have labs for fourth-grade science, 20 percent did not have any space to conduct experiments during science classes, and 8 percent did not have any supplies or equipment for science labs or demonstrations.
The data also clearly shows that fourth-graders who had large spaces to conduct science experiments and more supplies and equipment for science demonstrations performed better than their peers who did not have those infrastructure resources. The lack of infrastructure clearly negatively impacts students’ academic performance.
The pandemic also shone a spotlight on the need to invest in infrastructure. Overcrowded schools cannot adhere to social distancing requirements. Outdated school buildings lack reliable heat and air conditioning systems, much less the advanced filtering and ventilation systems required during an airborne pandemic.
In June 2020, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that an estimated 54 percent of public school districts need to update or replace multiple building systems or features in their schools. The GAO also reported that 41 percent of districts need to update or replace heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in at least half of their schools, which means that about 36,000 schools nationwide need HVAC updates.
These numbers show that there is always work to be done in providing our students with the best academic experiences. As school board members, you’re entrusted by the people to make the best decisions for your schools and students. It isn’t an easy job, but your tireless work is what will prepare the U.S. for the future, and we are thankful for your service.