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Crumbling schools don’t provide strong foundations for America’s students

NEA urges Congress to do better for nation’s children and pass Fix America’s Schools Today Act


WASHINGTON - December 09, 2011 -

An estimated 14 million American children attend deteriorating public schools. Falling ceiling tiles, leaking roofs, and moldy walls are just a few of health and safety issues in thousands of our nation’s public schools and community colleges.  At least a third of America’s 80,000 public schools are in need of extensive repair and at least two-thirds have unhealthy environmental conditions.

“At one point I had a waterfall cascading into a light fixture in the ceiling,” said Reading, PA seventh grade teacher Christopher Meyers. “Kids were sitting in puddles in metal chairs as water hit exposed wires. They were like individual lightening rods. You can’t get any more dangerous than that.” Myers places buckets around the room, pushes student desks out of the way and puts a tarp over his own desk. Then he has to scramble to find a dry, safe room where he can continue his lessons.

According to a Department of Education survey, 43 percent of schools indicated that the poor condition of their facilities interferes with the delivery of instruction. The impact of these conditions also includes increased rates of illness, lower student achievement, as well as reduced teacher productivity. Many NEA members are sending photos, videos and stories into educationvotes.org in an attempt to raise the visibility of deteriorating schools. 

"This isn’t about providing luxuries for our students—it’s about providing them with the basics," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "We shouldn't have to fight for our students to have safe and healthy learning environments. We need Congress to cut through the current political logjam and do what’s best for our students. This legislation will help students, educators and construction workers.  We simply cannot afford to have yet another piece of the American Jobs Act fall away due to partisanship."

NEA is calling on Congress to pass the Fix America’s Schools Today Act, (S. 1597 by Senator Sherrod Brown, D-OH, and H.R. 2948 by Representative Rosa DeLauro, D-CT). This legislation would provide $25 billion for modernizing and repairing public schools and $5 billion for community colleges.  These funds would renovate 35,000 school buildings and put more Americans back to work. 

According to the Economic Policy Institute, an initial $50 billion school renovation program would employ 500,000 workers — a third of the 1.5 million construction workers now unemployed — and could easily be scaled up. Eliminating just half the backlog in repairs and improvements would, over a period of years, create more than 2 million jobs, while improving the buildings in which our students prepare for the future.

Visit http://www.educationvotes.nea.org/modernization/ to hear NEA member stories about the health and safety threats in their  schools  and the impact those conditions have  on their students. 

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee 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: Sara Robertson  (202) 822-7823, srobertson@nea.org