NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Schools For Old

July 27, 1999

School district officials around the country are struggling to build additional schools and replace old schools with new ones. Experts say the needs and the costs are considerable.

  • Public school enrollments nationwide have been growing at a rate of 500,000 to 700,000 students a year, says the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one out of every three existing schools buildings is approaching the end of its useful life, which is about 50 years, according to the Association of School Business Officials.
  • School districts invested $18.7 billion in school construction in 1996.
  • But the General Accounting Office estimates the cost of needed repairs and new construction at $112 billion.

In Los Angeles, nearly one out of every two students takes classes in schools that run on staggered, year-round calendars since crowding is so pronounced. Over the last two decades, the Los Angeles Unified School District has built only one high school and middle school.

A high school under construction near Los Angeles' downtown has cost approaching $200 million -- believed to be the most expensive public school in America's history. But the building may well have to be abandoned. It is situated on an idle oil field still burbling with oil and methane gas.

Source: Jacques Steinberg, "Other Cities Struggle to Keep Up On Construction," New York Times, July 27, 1999


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