School funding varies widely by state. Five states pay for nearly all of their school districts’ capital costs, 12 states provide no direct support for districts for capital construction responsibilities, and in the remaining 33 states, the levels of support vary greatly. The federal government contributes little to no funding for the nation’s K-12 educational facilities.
While school districts collectively invested as much as $49 billion per year in school facilities from 2011 to 2013 for new facilities and capital construction, it is estimated that the nation should be spending $87 billion per year to renew facilities so they provide healthy, safe, and modern learning environments—leaving a $38 billion annual investment gap. In addition, districts need to spend $58 billion annually just to maintain and operate the current inventory of facilities, along with an estimated $77 billion annually to upgrade existing facilities to reduce the backlog of deferred maintenance. Another $10 billion per year is needed for new construction to accommodate the anticipated increase in enrollments in the coming decade.
Following the 2008 recession, many states reduced overall funding per student and have not restored it, even as enrollments and needs have grown. During the 2014 school year at least 31 states provided less funding than in the 2008 school year, and in at least 15 states, these cuts exceeded 10%. Local government funding also fell in at least 18 states over the same period. While local funding did increase in 27 states, those increases rarely counteracted state-level cuts. And, while most states increased funding per student in 2015, 12 states imposed new cuts.
Facing tight budgets, school districts’ ability to fund maintenance has been constricted, contributing to the accelerating deterioration of heating, cooling, and lighting systems. Deferred maintenance and decisions to choose less expensive temporary fixes are ultimately costing school districts more money in the long-term.Back to Schools