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We produce high-quality, non-partisan research and policy guidance to local, state, and federal policy makers.
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Recent Publications


Vincent, Jeffrey M., Miller, Ruth, and Dillon, Lianne                                                                                                                                                                                     

As California looks to implement a Health in All Policies approach into state decision making, and weave health, equity, and environmental sustainability into more policies, a better understanding of the relationship between school siting and walkability is needed, particularly considering that the state provides funds to school districts for new school construction projects. This study measures the walkability around a sample of schools sited and constructed in six high-growth counties in California from 2003-2011.

Full Report (PDF) 


Center for Cities + Schools, 21st Century School Fund, Center for Green Schools, and National Council on School Facilities

Our country’s elementary and secondary (PK–12) public school infrastructure is in crisis. Every day, millions of children in the U.S. attend public school in unhealthy,unsafe, educationally inadequate, environmentally unsustainable, and financially inefficient facilities. Our public school facilities have broad impacts on children and communities: student, staff, and community health; school quality and academic achievement; economic development; and environment and natural resources. We need effective and efficient systems to ensure responsible stewardship of our PK-12 public school infrastructure.

With much at stake, national leaders launched the Planning for PK-12 Infrastructure Initiative (P4si Initiative) in 2016 to formulate a systems-based plan to address the PK-12 infrastructure crisis. This report presents findings from the Phase 1 national research engagement process to identify the challenges to adequacy and equity in PK-12 infrastructure and to propose system reforms. Our recommended priority actions are designed to develop and support the essentials for modern PK-12 public infrastructure stewardship. Phase 2 of the P4si Initiative will move the 55 priority actions forward to achieve a paradigm shift in our PK-12 public infrastructure systems.

Executive Summary (PDF)

Full Report (PDF)

New National Initiative: Planning for Pk-12 Infrastructure: Adequate Public School Facilities for All Children

CC+S is partnering with the 21st Century School Fund, The Center for Green Schools, and the National Council on School Facilities to address the structural problems of inequitable and inadequate school facilities found in too many communities across the U.S. 
Through this initiative, six national cross-sector working groups have developed a menu of solutions to guide government, industry, labor, and the civic sector in the delivery of high performance public PK-12 infrastructure for all children. The six working groups are organized around basic elements of a well-managed facilities program: Data and Information, Educational Facilities Planning, Management, Funding, Governance and Decision Making, and Accountability. This map identifies policies, practices, and tools needed to structure, manage and fund the public and private capacity for equitable and efficient public school facilities for all communities. 

Initiative Summary and Working Group Descriptions (PDF)

This initiative is funded by the Leadership Team organizations and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Building Pressure: modeling the fiscal future of California K-12 school facilities

Liz S. Jain and Jeffrey. M. Vincent

September 2016

Public school districts across California, particularly those in low-wealth areas, experience significant funding shortfalls for their facilities. Amidst this trend of widespread underinvestment in California’s K-12 public school facilities, state funds to aid school districts in facility construction and modernization projects are depleted. Whether the 2016 statewide ballot measure (Proposition 51) passes or fails, state lawmakers are likely to face continued pressures to meet the vast infrastructure needs of public K-12 facilities.

With this study, we aim to inform voters and to provide broad guidance for policymakers regarding the relative merits of various long-term state funding approaches for public school facilities.

Based on California’s historical experience, the scale of current needs for K-12 infrastructure investment, and examples from other states, we identify four policy scenarios applicable in the Golden State’s current political climate (Scenario 1: No State Support; Scenario 2: State Competitive Grant Matching Program; Scenario 3: Small State Role Targeted to High-Need Districts; and Scenario 4:Equity-Focused State Grant Formula). We then estimate available facility funding for each K-12 school district under each scenario. Our findings suggest that California needs a principled, long-term program for public school facilities funding that promotes adequacy, equity and affordability. 

Full Report (PDF)

Building Accountability: A review of State Standards and Requirements for K-12 Public School Facility Planning and Design

Jeffrey M. Vincent, PhD

July 2016

To inform state lawmakers on appropriate policies for K-12 school facility planning and design, this paper investigates standards in seven state policy areas (educational space, minimum essential facilities, indoor human comfort/environmental quality, school site size, planning process, maintenance, and charter schools) in ten case study states: California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. Identifying national trends in state standards for K-12 school facilities, we find that school facility standards advance four state interests:

State Interest #1.That children in the state attend public school facilities that adequately support the education program.

State Interest #2.To protect and/or advance the health of, safety of, and environmental quality for children and/or communities.

State Interest #3.That there are not gross facility disparities across the state that would disproportionately undermine the achievement of specific groups of students.

State Interest #4.That school districts design, build, and operate cost effective and efficient school facilities.

Drawing on lessons from the field, our recommendations are directed specifically to the California Department of Education, but applicable to all states:

States should maximize availability of facilities planning and design technical assistance to local school districts, to uphold state standards and leverage numerous benefits to the public/taxpayers. State agencies are uniquely positioned to play a technical assistance role to bring this value to all school districts.

States should regularly collect information on the conditions and qualities of all K-12 school facilities and grounds in the state. By collecting up-to-date information on school facility conditions and qualities, state leaders and the public have a way to know whether or not the various standards are having the desired effect(s).

States should conduct a public review and update of all K-12 facility standards every few years. State standards, guidelines and regulations for school facilities should be periodically reviewed and updated to reflect evolving industry best practice, new research findings, alignment to broader state infrastructure goals, and changing educational program emphases.

States should ensure there is adequate and equitable school facility spending to uphold standards. California policymakers can use state school facility funding and the standards in tandem to ensure that all children attend facilities that are safe, healthy, educational suitable and affordable to taxpayers.

Full Report (PDF)

Report Appendix (PDF)

Going It Alone: Can California’s K-12 School Districts Adequately and Equitably Fund School Facilities?  

Jeffrey M. Vincent and Liz S. Jain

After decades of dedicated investment, state funding to assist local California school districts in the construction, modernization, and maintenance of their school facilities has come to a halt. Our analysis of school facility spending across California finds that, compared to industry standards, there is an ongoing, structural pattern of inadequate and inequitable spending in many school districts:

• Majority of school districts underspend on facilities

• Wealthy districts spend more on facilities, especially on the capital side

• Districts serving low-income students disproportionately spend more per student on M&O from their operating budgets to fund facilities

Overall, these findings suggest that many districts—particularly those serving high-need students—risk grossly underfunded facilities budgets, deteriorating schools, and declining educational outcomes if they are left on their own, without state support for capital needs. The report concludes by identifying policy reforms that will move California to a more coherent system of school facility finance that promotes adequacy, equity, public accountability, and affordability.

Full paper (PDF)

Policy brief (PDF)

Connecting Housing, Transportation + Education to Expand Opportunity: Living, Learning + Moving Together

Center for Cities and Schools, Enterprise Community Partners, Mile High Connects, National Housing Conference, and the Natural Resources Defense Council

In many parts of the country it is difficult for families, particularly low- or moderate- income families to afford a suitable home in a transit-rich neighborhood with good schools. This report synthesizes the ideas and policy recommendations from a national convening of local, state, and federal stakeholders from across the country on innovative policy and practice at the housing, transportation, and schools (“H/T/E”) nexus – specifically, discussing ways to design or emphasize the 
city as a place for families to stay and thrive.