AASA Survey Identifies Public School Projects That Would Stimulate Economy, Improve Schools

December 15, 2008

Amy Vogt

ARLINGTON, Va. – America’s public schools have a list of ready-to-go construction and renovation projects that, with an infusion of federal economic stimulus funds, would work to both stimulate a stagnating economy and improve the educational environment for children, according to a national survey of school superintendents released today by the American Association of School Administrators. Almost 800 superintendents from 48 different states completed the AASA Opportunity for Federal Education Funding Survey, which identified $6.52 billion in ready-to-go new construction projects and $4.49 billion in ready-to-go renovation and repair projects for public schools.

AASA administered the survey to superintendents nationwide in December 2008 to learn how school districts would spend one-time block-grant funds, if they were to become available as part of an economic stimulus package. Almost all respondents (99 percent) identified budget gaps that they could direct stimulus money to and 97 percent identified short-term projects that could be placed in the bid market in 60-90 days. The survey found:

  • Districts would focus one-time funds for facilities-related projects on renovation and repair. The top four projects related to facilities that responders would address with the stimulus funds are building repair (68 percent of all respondents), building renovation (59 percent), security measures (57 percent) and deferred school construction projects (46 percent).
  • Survey responders reported an interest in using one-time funds to provide instructional materials, with an especially strong focus on classroom technology. The top four projects related to instructional materials that responders would address with the stimulus funds are classroom technology (88 percent of all respondents), classroom equipment/supplies (63 percent), textbooks (46 percent), and music education equipment/instruments (41 percent).
  • The strong focus on technology-related projects carried over to professional development and informational technology. The top three professional projects related to development that responders would address with the stimulus funds are technology (71 percent of all respondents), curriculum instruction (64 percent), and assessment (47 percent). The top four technology-related projects responders would address with the stimulus funds are machines (computers, printers, etc.) (75 percent), infrastructure/hardware (66 percent), software (51 percent), and connectivity (47 percent).
  • Survey responders also identified a set of back-logged transportation-related projects. The top four transportation projects responders would address with the stimulus funds are vehicle purchases/upgrades (71 percent of all respondents), fuel (59 percent), deferred structural (bus barn) maintenance (29 percent), and deferred fleet maintenance (19 percent).

“We urge the federal government to fund the huge backlog in school construction, renovation and repair, which will not only improve learning environments for children but also create jobs to strengthen the struggling economy,” said AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech. “We also urge Congress to fund a new block-grant program to rapidly drive resources needed for instructional materials, new technology and professional development in order to continue the improvement of schools. Finally, in the face of state and local budget cuts, it’s time the federal government paid its promised share of special education costs, which have lagged over the past 30 years.”

Domenech noted that the block grant and special education funding could be implemented quickly, because existing statutory authorities, not new laws, would provide the vehicle for the funding.

“An investment in America’s schools is an investment in our children and our economy that will pay valuable dividends,” said AASA President Randall Collins, superintendent in Waterford, Conn. In addition to the other funding priorities noted in the AASA study, Collins noted the importance of superintendents’ call for increased professional development funding for teachers. “The importance of staff development to stimulate the local economy and jumpstart school improvement is often overlooked. A significant staff development program would employ thousands of high-quality substitute teachers who are not currently employed and would stimulate local economies while enhancing children’s education.”

Read the survey summary, which includes a state-by-state total dollar value of deferred construction and renovation projects.

About the Survey
AASA invited superintendents nationwide via e-mail to complete the AASA Opportunity for Federal Funding Survey between Dec. 1 and Dec. 9, 2008. A total of 796 superintendents from 48 states completed the survey. Eighty-two percent of respondents represented rural districts, 13 percent represented suburban districts and six percent represent urban districts.

About AASA
The American Association of School Administrators, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders across the United States. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. AASA’s major focus is standing up for public education. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.