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Economic troubles felt in halls across America's public schools

Upgrading school infrastructure is one way to jump-start the economy and improve student learning


WASHINGTON - October 29, 2008 -

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel today urged Congress to invest in school infrastructure as a way to stimulate the economy and improve student learning during a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee on economic recovery, job creation and investment in America.

"The economic crisis is not only threatening education funding but is affecting the daily lives of our students and their families," said Dennis Van Roekel, NEA president. "Congress needs to take immediate action to help alleviate the pressure on state budgets and working families."
 
As many as 27 states are forecasting deficits of at least $25 billion for fiscal year 2009. Schools are reporting record numbers of students who are homeless or qualify for free school meals. School districts are forced to lay off staff to cope with depressed budgets. Rising fuel costs are forcing school districts to take drastic measures, including trimming or eliminating bus service, cutting back on field trips, and shortening the school week.

On top of that, across the country, public schools are in desperate need of repair and renovation. Children go to public schools built, on average, almost 50 years ago. They enter overcrowded buildings with leaky roofs, faulty electrical systems, and outdated technology. In some cases, classes take place in one of the more than 220,000 portable classrooms in use by public school systems in the United States.

"In a time of economic weakness, we have to act boldly," said Van Roekel. "Public investments in the nation's infrastructure can provide short-term stimulus and build the foundation for long-term economic growth. Such investments have shown to have a significant ripple effect on state and local economies."

According to a recent study, researchers at Rutgers University found that each $1 million of spending on school construction generates $467,000 in income, more than $13,000 and $16,000 in state and local tax revenue, respectively, and $611,000 in gross state product and local jobs. Over the next five years, the state of New Jersey expects to spend $5.4 billion on school construction, which will generate almost 9,400 full-time jobs annually, $2.5 billion in income, $3.3 billion in GDP, $369 million in tax revenues, $72 million in state tax revenues, and $87 million in local tax revenues.

"In addition to stimulating the economy, creating jobs, and injecting revenue into state and local coffers, school modernization enhances student learning," said Van Roekel. "It addresses overcrowding, safety and environmental concerns due to aging structures; creates an environment more conducive to learning; and helps meet the demands of modern technology."

A growing body of research supports the relationship between the condition of a school's facilities and student achievement. Study after study has found a positive correlation between the state of the school, school climate and student achievement. Conversely, a study of a large school district related poor school conditions to poor school performance.

"Clearly, a short-term investment in school infrastructure can have a long-term impact on our nation's economic well-being. We urge Congress to invest in school infrastructure as part of any stimulus package."

For additional information, please visit http://www.nea.org/

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez  (202) 822-7823