Have we achieved Martin Luther King’s Dream?

Every day, thousands of children in Pennsylvania and millions of children across the country are sent into schools that are unsafe, unhealthy, and unfit for learning.   Given this reality, have we achieved the dream outlined by Dr. Martin Luther King?

Dr. King said that “Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life. Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult.” 

Can we achieve Dr. King’s dream if our school facilities are broken?

In January, the Philadelphia School District released an analysis of the state of its buildings and grounds.  More than 12,000 repairs were cited at a cost of almost $5 billion.  The report said that the district will need to spend $3 billion over the next decade to meet immediate needs. 

Philadelphia is not alone.  Last week in Baltimore, thousands of children missed school due to frigid classrooms and busted water pipes.  In October, mold forced officials in Philadelphia to close the JB Kelly school for several weeks.  The problem — many years of underfunding preventative maintenance in schools. 

According to a 2016 report, the U.S. needs to spend an additional $46 billion per year to maintain and upgrade the nation’s schools.  The problem falls hardest on large, urban school districts like Philadelphia and Baltimore.  Wealthy, suburban districts spend three times more than poorer urban districts. 

Local school districts cannot solve the problem without state and federal help.  According to a recent article in Governing magazine, next to highways school buildings are the most extensive network of public facilities in the nation.  Yet, in most cases states don’t receive any money from Washington to pay for school construction and maintenance.  That is unacceptable. 

I’ve offered legislation to address this problem.  The centerpiece of my legislation is The Schools of the Future Repair, Rebuild and Revitalize Plan.  The plan, which would invest in new building construction and repairs, would be funded by a tax on Marcellus Shale drilling.  

The Independent Fiscal Office predicts that a modest 6.5 percent tax on gas extraction would raise $349 million in Fiscal Year 2017-18, $712 million in 2018-19, $755 million in 2019-20, $931 million in 2020-21 and $1.5 billion in 2021-22.

Harrisburg and Washington must do more.  Every child deserves a school that is safe, healthy and equipped for learning. 

Philly school buildings need nearly $5B in repairs, new report says

By Kristen A. Graham | January 26, 2017

classroom For the first time in 14 years, the Philadelphia School District has assessed the state of its aging buildings, and the results are staggering: The system identified more than 12,000 outstanding repairs.

It would cost nearly $5 billion to do the work. Officials predict that they will need to spend $3 billion in the next 10 years to address urgent problems.

Because of delayed maintenance, close to three-quarters of city schools are in poor repair, and a third of all schools are in such bad shape that they are “outside the sustainable funding range.” Engineers recommend that some of these be replaced or closed in the coming years.

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Cold-Weather Closures Expose Years of Underinvestment in Urban Schools

By J. Brian Charles | January 10, 2018

childrenThanks to a generation of underfunding, many big-city school districts now face deteriorating buildings and billions of dollars in maintenance needs.

Thousands of schoolchildren in Baltimore missed classes last week as a cold snap forced officials to close schools. Frigid temperatures and ruptured water pipes made some school buildings uninhabitable for students and teachers.

Those kinds of closures could become more frequent in cities across the country, many education advocates say, thanks to a generation of underfunding construction and maintenance costs in urban districts.

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In Their Own Words: Students talk about the condition of their school
In Their Own Words: Students talk about the condition of their school