Eliminating the K-12 Facility Gap

Filed under: School Facilities,

UC Berkeley Center for Cities and Schools’ recent study, “Going it Alone: Can California’s K-12 School Districts adequately and Equitably Fund School Facilities?” benchmarks school maintenance and operations (M & O) and capital spending to building industry best practice standards for the first time ever in California. Doing so gives us a far better picture of the needs across the state for adequate school facilities for our children and our public responsibility to ensure it. In the study, Jeff Vincent and Liz Jain compare what has been spent to what should be spent. The gap between these two is what we need to focus on – providing high quality public education for all public school students in our state.

Prior to the 2008 Great Recession, the standard in California for school facility maintenance spending was 3% of the school district’s General Fund dollars. This was a requirement if a district participated in the State’s School Facilities Program. The vast majority of school districts did participate, so this requirement served as a standard. While this standard was well-intended, it was not linked to actual facilities needs – it was simply a percentage of the budget many thought should be devoted to maintenance and operations. This spending requirement was “flexed” by the legislature during the Great Recession as school districts were presented with the dilemma of keeping their doors open verses needed repairs and maintenance of school buildings. In 2015-16, the flexibility provisions expired. However, budget language continues to allow some flexibility through 2020. There is no capital spending standard in California.

“Going It Alone” provides great guidance, by introducing a long-standing industry standard to the school facilities research and policy discussion in California: a minimum of 2.5-3% of a building’s current replacement value (CRV) should be spent every year maintaining and operating that building, and 1.5-2% of the CRV should be spent on major repair, alterations and replacement of building systems to sustain the useful life of the campus. While not a new way to plan for and deploy dollars for commercial buildings, it is a new way of looking at our school building spending needs.

The spending standards presented in Going it Alone give California school districts the opportunity to plan their M&O and capital spending to quantifiable benchmarks that will help set priorities, and inform the state, school boards and communities about the long-term cost of underinvesting. It also helps state lawmakers better gauge the magnitude of school facility needs statewide (in the absence of detailed facility conditions assessments).

To understand the cost associated with underinvesting, the graphic below clearly illustrates the service life of a building with and without proper maintenance. Without normal maintenance investment, buildings hit catastrophic failure quickly. Adequate maintenance greatly extends the life of these school building assets. That is, if we take care of our buildings, they will last longer (and be more healthy, safe, and functional to boot).

Graphic Source: Bello and Loftness. (2010). Addressing Inadequate Investment in School Facility Maintenance. Carnegie Mellon University. 

But the most important point for me of Berkeley’s Going it Alone study is that many – if not all – school districts, county offices and charter schools cannot go it alone, and the State of California has a moral (and probably also a legal) responsibility to help local districts, particularly those with low tax wealth, to provide and maintain school facilities that are safe, healthy, sustainable, and educationally appropriate for the 21st century.

Kathleen Moore served as the director of California Department of Education's School Facilities and Transportation Services division from 2004-2014. Before that she managed construction and renovation of 49 schools in Elk Grove Unified School District. All views here are her own.


Posted on by BRUCE FULLER, PHD
Filed under: School Facilities,
Tagged: bruce fuller

A NEW UC BERKELEY CENTER FOR CITIES+SCHOOLS STUDY FINDS THAT MORE THAN HALF OF CALIFORNIA’S K-12 SCHOOL DISTRICTS UNDERSPEND ON THEIR FACILITIES, COMPARED TO BEST PRACTICE SPENDING STANDARDS. THIS IS A GUEST BLOG REFLECTING ON THE RESEARCH FINDINGS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR CALIFORNIA STATE POLICY. Gov. Brown’s deputies find themselves in a contradictory position as they consider whether or not to tax local communities to improve crumbling school facilities. The Administration presses forward on one of the largest efforts to redistribute public resources toward lower-income families and their children ever attempted by any government. The governor’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) reform will…

Is School Facility Funding in California Adequate and Equitable?

Posted on by JEFF VINCENT, PHD
Filed under: School Facilities,
Tagged: jeff vincent

A new UC Berkeley Center for Cities+Schools study finds that more than half of California’s K-12 school districts underspend on their facilities, compared to best practice spending standards. This is the first in a series of blog posts on our research findings and their implications for state policy.   Public education funding is undergoing major changes in California. The new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) significantly restructured education program funding – providing more money overall and instituting a new formula that gives more funding to districts with targeted disadvantaged students (see the details here). Though it’s been making fewer headlines,…

Designing Outdoor Play and Learning Environments

Posted on by Cailin
Filed under: School Facilities,

We get a lot of random requests for information here at CC+S. Here’s one we’ve had more than once: “What are best practices for the design of outdoor play and learning environments at schools?"  We recently got an email about this from a parent in Hawai’i. As my colleagues and I put together a shortlist of key resources for her, it occurred to me that it was worth sharing. So here goes. Big kudos to CC+S’s Creative Director, Shirl Buss, who put most of this info together.  In no particular order, these firms and organizations have done innovative work in playground design: Robin…

Full Service Schools in a Full Service City

Posted on by Cailin
Filed under: School Facilities,

Desiree Carver-Thomas is working with the City of Richmond to examine the way in which communities and schools positively interact to create beneficial outcomes. Her project: Implementing the Full Service Community Schools Initiative, aims to increase the presence of full service schools across Richmond.  Desiree is a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the Goldman School, interested in education policy and social welfare. She came to Berkeley after teaching for five years in New York City public elementary schools. She's committed to working on issues of equity and community empowerment in public education. A full service community school (FSCS) is “both a place and a…

Advancing Project-Based Learning in OUSD: Best Practices and Tradeoffs

Posted on by Cailin

Kate Glassman is passionate about promoting instructional practices that encourage students in grades K-12 to engage in meaningful inquiry and undergo personal transformation. She cares deeply about harnessing social policy to increase the professional capacity of teachers in public schools, and to expand educational opportunities for low-income students, foster youth, and English language learners. Kate is a first year Master of Public Policy (MPP) student at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Before beginning graduate school, Kate taught argumentative writing at a public high school within the Ministry of Education of Singapore. Prior to teaching abroad, Kate worked as a third grade teacher for…

Aligning Linked Learning with Market Trends

Posted on by Cailin

Raúl Chavez's research interests include emerging adults and employment issues, vocational identity development, and social policy analysis. Raúl is a second-year doctoral student at the School of Social Welfare. He has over eight combined years of public service experience at the FBI, CIA, US Department of Health and Human Services, and County of Los Angeles.  As a PLUS fellow with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and the Association of Bay Area Governments, I am working to aggregate data, information, and knowledge from various sources to make recommendations for how the OUSD can strengthen its relationships with employers as part of its work-based learning…

Galvanizing Community Engagement in School Facility Quality

Posted on by Cailin
Filed under: School Facilities,

Alejandra's passion lies at the intersection of education and social policy. Her current work for the Oakland Unified School District reflects her interests as she examines the dilemma of assessing opportunity and increasing awareness around school facilities.  Alejandra is a first year Masters of Public Polity student at Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. Before entering into graduate school she served as a college readiness advisor through AmeriCorps VISTA in the San Antonio Independent School District.  No matter the context, school facilities departments across the country face a common dilemma: on the one hand, the quality of school facilities play an…

Connected for Collective Impact: CBOs + School Health Pathways

Posted on by Cailin

Ángel Ross is working with a collaboration between the California Endowment and SCUSD. Ángel a first year in the Master of City Planning program at Berkeley, concentrating on housing, community and economic development. Their previous work has focused on youth organizing around immigration, queer, and education issues in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. In July of 2014, the California Career Pathways Trust became law making $250 million in funds available to school districts, community college districts, and other regional bodies to support career pathways programs. Part of the goal of these one-time competitive grants is to establish regional collaborative relationships…

Health Pathways at Schools: Charting an Uncertain Roadmap

Posted on by Cailin

Cailey Gibson's desire to promote the use of community based participatory research and evaluation to advance health equity and policy change has influenced her work with SCUSD. Cailey is currently a first year MPH student in the School of Public Health in Health and Social Behavior. She has spent the last four years in the Bay area working in public health and community development in the social enterprise sector. Here’s a riddle: what’s frequently risky, involves uncertainty, is intended to achieve a specific outcome, and is carried out by people who don’t normally interact? If you’re a public health student like myself, you’ll be forgiven…