Education News

As schools across America crumble, Congress can come to the rescue

By Amanda Menas

Every student deserves to go to school in buildings that are safe and nurture their love of learning. Throughout the pandemic, educators have been calling for increased investment in our public school buildings. Now, Congress has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pave the way.

But for too many other students across the country, going back to school means returning to crumbling buildings with inadequate ventilation and other problems that have been made worse from the pandemic. In fact, half our public schools are more than 50 years old, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Due to federal COVID relief funding, some schools, like those in Farewell, Mich., have seen new investment. Classrooms built in the 1930s and 1940s without enough electrical outlets have been rebuilt, and the High School has a new gym, says chemistry teacher and Farewell varsity volleyball coach John Pakledinaz.

Photo of a hallway in a DE high school, built 100 years ago, with mold in the ceiling posing threats to air quality.

Far too often these outdated schools are found in Black and brown, rural, and Indigenous communities. Pakledinaz’s district in rural Michigan still does not have air conditioning. Now is the time for Congress to invest in school modernization so they are the safest places in our communities by making improvements to ventilation, replacing lead pipes, repairing buildings, and expanding access to broadband.

In Greenburgh, NY, the top concern for students and educators is water quality. Similar to issues facing school communities across Michigan, including Flint where they face an ongoing water crisis, James Bell has taught special education for 20+ years and says that when it rains hard, buildings leak. In the cafeteria, a sink tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease. As our students return to school buildings this semester, families are relying on schools to provide healthy meals and safe learning conditions. We need to ensure that our children are able to grow and thrive.

Photo of an infestation in a classroom in DeKalb, GA.

Modernizing our schools will not only make them safer, it will create good-paying jobs in the school communities themselves. In DeKalb County, GA, the district is in high need for custodians to support the deep cleaning needs of our schools post-pandemic. While the superintendent likes to talk about routine deep cleaning, our students and educators know that the 60+ year old buildings are not all up to code, lacking proper ventilation and air purification.

Now is the time to stand behind our educators, our students and their families to ensure safety and equity in our public schools. If we have learned anything from last year, it’s that our students and educators need us to invest in them, now more than ever.

The Senate has passed a $1 trillion bi-partisan infrastructure bill and the House is set to move forward with a $3.5 trillion budget framework. This is a moment where Congress needs to act fast, and act boldly to invest in our children and their safe and healthy future. The package must include school modernization.

Email your senators and representative and urge them to enact and expand President Biden’s plan to build back better.

38 responses to “As schools across America crumble, Congress can come to the rescue

  1. What would we do without our schools. It truly is a shame that people don’t seem to care unless it directly affects them. Well guess what- it does affect everyone as it does affect this Countries future. As our children are our future. They deserve to have a chance to get the best possible education in the best structures we can provide irregardless of their zip-codes.

  2. Stop blocking and criticizing common sense bills and invest in our futures. If you don’t like this bill write one of your own.

  3. We need to do so much more for the school children all across America. We have the resources to provide a magnificent education for them all. Please support education to help them all get the best eduction possible.

    1. Our children are our future, our future leaders of America. We should care for them as if they were our own. We should be grateful for all of the people who work in our school systems to care for our children.

  4. It is common sense and a moral obligation to treat youth with care and consideration. THEY are the future, after all!

  5. Come on!!!!!! Why are our children going to school in conditions that we as adults would never stand for!!!!! Take care of the physical conditions of public schools to make them mold free, accident free, safe and an environment that is healthy and enjoyable for children to learn!

  6. We have a very rich country and we should be spending a great deal more on public school infrastructure instead of giving tax breaks to the rich and corporations. Every student should have the right to attend a safe,modern school with well trained and effective teachers.

  7. It is also time to relook at our schools being run like factories by only college driven curriculum. The majority of the public education students do not finish college. We need more people working in the trades. Not all jobs need college but do need a technical training. Objectives for learning are not based on development but only on what it takes to get students ready for college. I am not against a college education, I am against curriculum that is only college driven without any consideration of the developing child. Students are force fed before their minds are even ready for it. They are developing humans not robots.

  8. It’s time for the corrupt millionaires in Congress who are taking money from fossil fuel, pharmaceutical companies, etc. to stand up for our children. Their children likely go to private schools, so they don’t seem to be concerned about public schools as long as they can continue to enrich themselves and not pay their fair share of taxes, Enough already!

  9. Every child everywhere should have the opportunity to grow and learn in a clean, safe place. That has to be a priority. They also must have access to all the modern teaching methods including high speed and reliable internet, and up to date material.

  10. Waiting for horrible disasters?
    I think this is not about bipartisan. It is about concentrating on making a child’s environment safe, a place they can learn, play and have good memories as I have of my learning experiences.

    1. We want our kids to be the best. And many people risk their lives to come here and this is what we have to offer along with not wishing to teach hard history? Past time to wake up USA.

    2. Yes, but this is partisan and everyone who supports Public Education needs to start right now donating to the Democrats in their state and federal elections. We have to realize that this is the only party dedicated to improving every part of the lives of all Americans- not just the white, wealthy people. We have a crisis like none other in our history. One party believes in the Constitution and the rule of law and voting rights and the other party believes in absolutely regaining and retaining POWER by whatever means. They no longer believe in Democracy and letting the PEOPLE decide in fair Elections. They do not believe that Diversity and Inclusion will make our country great. If Republicans have their wishes, White people will be in charge of the United States forever and there will be no Democracy.

  11. If repubs can give themselves a tax break then they can give our children the best schools and stop playing with our children. They like playing games since daddy trump has them by the throat since he thinks he’s going to be president again. Not if I’m still alive in 2024. My grandchildren deserves better. Remember January 6, I will not forget.

  12. Our kids deserve to have the best education. And not having the best gives the students the image that they really are not cared about. Old broken buildings, textbooks held together with tape, not enough supplies for the teachers. What is this showing these children??? YOU DON’T MATTER! And we wonder why they don’t want to go to school? My school is wonderful and clean and we have everything we need, we really know we’re blessed. But we do worry about the schools we came from. Congress needs to step up!

  13. Do we have to wait until a major school collapse occurs injuring public school students and staff??? Public schools seem to ALWAYS be the first place for local budget cuts. If it’s teachers or staff, or poor maintenance, public schools are absolutely critical to the future of the USA. An educated populace is an essential requirement for any democracy. And the USA seems to be in dire need of people who know how important critical thinking and knowledge are to ensuring democracy within our country!

  14. Schools need a regular inspection to assure conditions are acceptable to student attendance and conducive to learning.

  15. School need to be safe havens for our children, whenre they can focus on learning, and growth, and the job of being children.

  16. As a former educator I dealt with mold and rodent infestation in the classroom. Students and educators should not have to deal with these issues, please bring our classrooms up to standards.

  17. The school I have worked at for over 27 years was built in 1882. Obviously, additions and updates have been thoughout time, but it is due for an overhaul to the entire structure to ensure safety for all students and staff. It’s time to stop putting bandaids on items and get completely into the 21st century.

  18. We are no longer world leaders in terms of education, productivity, mental health, safety, or well being. Congress must put aside the petty, partisan NONSENSE and work TOGETHER to save the America for which my father and his generation fought and died!! Have we no great statesmen and leaders to bring us together??

  19. Overcrowding is not safe for our precious unvaccinated youngest elementary students. Get them vaccinated and find safe spaces for them until they are vaccinated- now!!

  20. Our schools make us look like the developing world. The way we care for our children’s welfare in this country is appalling. It’s high time we put young people at the forefront of our legislative agenda and support measures that give all children access to well-maintained and resourced schools, nutritious food, and healthcare.

  21. It makes no sense for students to be in schools that are in such horrific conditions! Not only do they have to focus on learning but also on bugs, mold and other conditions they shouldn’t ever have to deal with! Why is it always the lower income school kids, no child should be dealing with this!

    1. Thank you! We need action!! Your support towards the children of our nation is greatly appreciated and imperative for forward progress in the USA.

    2. In my school district, a school complex should be torn down and rebuilt due to the horrible conditions, poor or no ventilation, rats, not mice walking the halls, it rains inside, no windows, it was built on a swamp, Ida hurricane “pulled back the curtain” to highlight the condition, years earlier. . . The engineers’ reports cited countless areas for immediate and necessary repairs before Covid. This school complex is a public disgrace and no one cares.

  22. PLEASE consider supporting our crumbling schools. Mold, outdated heating/cooling systems, cracks, bumps in the floors, and numerous hazards that impact all in the buildings.
    Let’s support our future. Let’s support the educators and support staff by creating safe infrastructure for the important work that gets done every day in our public schools.

  23. As a former (retired) teacher, I can attest to badly crumbling school buildings, with things like mold and asbestos a dangerous situation for all involved. We MUST address these issues NOW (although it’s a crime that they haven’t already been addressed).
    The lives and health of students and educators are in the balance…

  24. Attending Schools are critical for students to learn, be educated about local, country and world values, cultures and challenges.

  25. Education is America’s footprint to freedom and responsibility for others. Without education, America is a Lost Cause!

  26. I never understood why schools are so old and drab when adults get to work in offices that are bright, airy, and colorful. Many have healthy food options too. Imagine if our classrooms looked like the GOOGLE campus? It should. I will never understand why children, the future, don’t get the very, very best.

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