Skip to main content

Staff in these schools struggle to educate students in conditions that few corporations, much less building inspectors, would tolerate.  Mold, leaking ceilings, extreme temperatures, raw sewage seeping into hallways, mice droppings, severely overcrowded classrooms - these unhealthy and/or unsafe conditions plague tens of thousand of old and new school buildings where millions of Americans age 5 and older must study and work.  For the most part, officials have been unwilling to adequately confront this serious situation, which is affecting teaching and learning.

That is the second paragraph of an important new report.   Please keep reading so that you will understand.  You WILL be moved to take action.

Today a major report on the health of our school buildings is being released by the American Federation of Teachers.   Entitled Building Minds, Minding Buildings it is available as a 28 page PDF file and I urge anyone with an interest in either health or education to take the time to read it.  It includes many illustrations to demonstrate the nature of the problem, which is severe.

I was asked if I would be willing to preview the report and consider writing about it.  Although I have a lot on my plate, I agreed to look at it and was given an embargoed copy several days ago.  As soon as I glanced at it I decided to take the time to make it more widely visible.  I will in this diary offer some selections from the report.  I will also as a teacher and as one concerned with educational policy offer a few observations and comments of my own.

The  report begins by noting that nearly 20 years ago the AFT had called for a Marshall Plan to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure of inner city schools.

Existing school buildings were crumbling and new schools were not being built.  This problem has now spread far beyond the boundaries of urban school districts and touches nearly every school system in our nation.

Our public infrastructure in general is deteriorating.  School buildings might be the canary in the mine.  We have bridges, dams, highways, and the like, all of which need major maintenance and/or replacement.  I worry that our solution in recent years has been to privatize what could be privatized - including highways - and to ignore the rest.  This country will not survive economically or as a democracy if we do not address all of our public infrastructure.

The key issue for the AFT can be stated in one sentence:

We continue to believe that the school environment cannot be separated from the academic agenda.

 In other words, if we are going to have high standards and accountability, it must be in a physical environment that is not counterproductive to achieving those standards.

The US Dept. of Education commissioned a study required under NCLB on the impact of environmentally unhealthy buildings upon health and learning but when

The study found "the overall evidence strongly suggests that poor environments in schools due primarily to the effects of indoor pollutants, adversely influence the health performance and attendance of students"

the report was shelved.

The AFT report is incredibly well documented.  The research department pulled reports from the government and other sources and compiled a devastating picture of the status of our buildings, and the impact it has on health and learning.  There is far too much for me to go over all of it.  But let me offer a few examples from the report.

  • in 1995 the GAO reported 25,000 school buildings needed extensive repairs and replacements then costing  $112 billion to bring the buildings into conformity  with MINIMUM building standards.
  • a 1999 federal report indicated that 3/4 of schools needed funds for repairs, etc., to upgrade their overall condition to good
  • a 2004 Department of Education report said that 8.5% of our schools have exceeded capacity
  • almost one in three schools has had to resort to the use of temporary buildings as the primary learning environment for 160 students (NOTE: I teach in a school with 21 temporary buildings serving as classrooms).
  • in 1995, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave a D to school infrastructure
  • minority children from low income communities are disproportionally affected by these conditions
  • poor air quality in school buildings contributes to student asthma, which leads to absences, difficulties concentrating, and lower achievement.
  • the American Lung Association found that in 2000 there were more than 12 million days of absence caused by asthma aggravated by poor indoor air quality.
  • nearly one in 13 school age children has asthma, the percentage rapidly rising among preschool children.
  • among children 5-17 asthma is the leading cause of absence due to a chronic illness, averaging about 8 days for each child with asthma.
  • the death rate for asthma among children 5-14 doubled from 1980 to 1988, with African-American children 4 to 6 times more likely to die from asthma related problems.

I could continue to list problems - with lighting, with noise levels, with the inability to move around the room (I note that in another school I once had 36 students in an 18 by 36 foot temporary.  But I was lucky - the temporary next door had up to 46!  We would consider such crowding cruelty were it done to farm animals).

Statistics can tell part of the picture.  Anecdotal information can flesh out the image.  Here are a few examples of quotes from people in schools,  representative of the examples in the report.  A teacher in Greenburgh NY reports

The mold is so bad that in one of the teachers bathrooms, mushrooms are growing.

.  Another in Guam says

I believe learning is affected when it rains in the room.

.  And finally, very appropriate given some of our ongoing debates over education, the words of a 2nd grade teacher in the Twin Cities area:

Amazingly, we continue to have learning happen, even under these conditions.  What better job could we do if we had good lighting, adequate space, good air flow and constant temperatures?  Maybe that should be considered in the No Child Left Behind recommendations.

The AFT report makes a series of recommendations.  They argue for better design in all aspects of school construction and rehabilitation.  They reference
-the EPA’s Tools for Schools program, "which helps to improve indoor air quality and reduce the risk of student and staff exposure to asthma triggers."  
-standards and recommendations from the U. S. Department of Energy

  • standards from the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council
  • recommendations from the Council of Educational Facility Planners International,

and so on.   It is not that we don’t know what needs to be done.  We have governmental and professional agencies and organizations that have told us.   We need the commitment, the will, the funding.

The AFT also wants a learning environment index to be used under NCLB.  Let me quote in part:

Although NCLB establishes high-stakes consequences for staff and students, many of the schools not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) do not have adequate facilities, safe conditions, teacher retention incentives, and the financial and professional supports necessary to succeed.  A learning environmental index would identify and measure teaching and learning conditions that are known to contribute to the increased student achievement.  Schools that fail to make AYP would be required to show improvement on their learning environment index, and states and districts would be required to provide the resources to ensure that schools address the teaching and learning conditions identified for improvement.  This would be the first step to shared responsibility for student learning.

I am not a fan of the kinds of accountability measures imposed by NCLB.  And without appropriate funding for remediation of the school learning environment an index by itself might not solve the problems the AFT attempts to address in this recommendation.   In fairness, AFT also advocates a number of programs for additional federal funding for school infrastructure, although the amounts of money of all such programs together seem miniscule when compared to the massive amounts, in excess of $100 billion, previously identified as necessary to bring buildings and facilities up to minimum standards.  But it would be a start.

Others also see the need of addressing this issue.   Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, is now head of Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities.  A recent (August 24) Business Week Online article misleading entitled From Ice Cream to Nuclear Freeze discusses how Cohen and his group would like to shift federal spending from defense to education and health.  Seeking to divert $60 billion a year from Defense to social spending and deficit reduction, the group was advocating what they entitled The Common Sense Budget Act of 2006.  One example of the difference this could make can be seen in this paragraph:

Cohen says he'd like to see some of what the U.S. spends on its nuclear arsenal directed toward rebuilding schools. "The weapons we have now are 150,000 times more powerful than what we dropped on Hiroshima," he says. "With $10 billion a year you could rebuild every school in the country that needs fixing over the next 12 years."

I am in my 12th year of public school teaching.  I have taught in 3 buildings, student taught in two more, and during my training and teaching had occasion to be inside several dozen additional school buildings in multiple cities and districts.   I have encountered, either personally or by observation, situations of exposed wires, puddles on floors, buckets in hallways to catch the leaks from the roof when it rains, mouse droppings, room temperatures not under the control of teachers ranging from 45 degrees in winter to 90 degrees on other occasions.  I have been in rooms with no natural light when the power went out and the only thing preventing total darkness was a screen saver on a computer.   I have seen student bathrooms with no doors on the stalls and hence no privacy.  I know of school buildings in which a series of teachers on the same corridor all became seriously ill.  I have encountered science labs that lacked proper ventilation.  There have been classrooms with more students than desks (fortunately I have avoided this in my own career), and desks and chairs that were too small, or broken.  There would be water fountains that didn’t work, and worse.

Students are often far more perceptive than adults realize.   They see the conditions in which they attend school and quickly draw the conclusion that their learning is really not important, otherwise they would not be subjected to such indignities.   As adults we would be quite upset to be confined by force of law to such an environment and then be expected to perform to a set of standards that were already in many cases unreasonable.  Were we describing such conditions in a manufacturing environment we might rightly attached the pejorative label of sweatshop, and we would expect that the authorities would intervene on the grounds of public health and safety.  And yet for far too long we have tolerated such conditions in our public schools.

If we are truly going to insist on educational equity, as is the underlying principle of NCLB, then such equity must include the conditions under which we attempt to have our children learn.  Some in Congress recognize the importance of this.  As the report notes, Reps. George Miller, Lynn Woolsey and Ben Chandler have introduced the 21st Century High-Performing School Facilities Act of 2006, which would authorize grants and loans to school districts for modernization and construction, with priority given to those district more heavily impacted by low-income children.  This is a start, but absent massive increases in the funds available for such programs, it is unlikely that they can address the serious issue of our school infrastructure.  

I would like us to totally rethink how we do education in this country.  That includes rethinking the kinds of structures we build for schooling.  I don’t want to move forward with building a lot of new schools, because I would hope we could come up with better models.  And yet in fairness we cannot wait until we can answer questions such as those with which I wrestle to address the current decrepitude and unhealthiness of our schools today.  It is unfair to those who attempt to learn therein, and those of us who are trying to help them with that learning.  We may need to build additional wings, or even some additional buildings, to alleviate overcrowding and the extensive use of "temporary" buildings that seem to become permanent parts of the infrastructure.  

We cannot merely take over warehouses and storefronts and the like and expect that we can convert these into satisfactory environments for learning.  I want to set that idea aside immediately.  We must take some actions now, and we need to be far more sensible about those new buildings and wings on current buildings that we must construct.  The cost of taking remedial action is extensive.  But the human and educational and health costs of doing nothing is far higher.

I commend the AFT for producing this report, and hope that readers will call it to the attention of as many policy makers as possible.  That includes district level administrators and school boards as well as state and federal educational and elected officials.     While schooling is primarily a state and local function, the country has recognized that it is an issue of national importance and priority. If it is going to continue to be a national issue, then we must be willing to address all aspects of that issue.  Having a functionally safe and healthy learning environment is an important prerequisite to high quality learning for all of our students.   I am not a member of the American Federation of Teachers (I have been a building rep for the National Education Association), but I commend the AFT for this report, for helping reopen an important discussion on a critical issue.   I urge you all to read the report, and to pass it on to others.

Originally posted to teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 03:57 AM PST.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  I believe this is very important (167+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    katiebird, Canadian Reader, Ed in Montana, jmart, Maccabee, coral, Athena, pb, Inky, Rayne, SarahLee, lipris, TaraIst, TrueBlueMajority, Powered Grace, ScientistMom in NY, Reino, DebtorsPrison, LBK, Avila, Disillusioned, jakbeau, Stein, elfling, sobermom, bumblebums, exNYinTX, vrexford, sardonyx, shermanesq, maggiemae, bronte17, brillig, Shadan7, kriser, cmlorenz, cookiebear, javelina, Fe, bewert, dmsilev, Alohaleezy, Janet Strange, SaucyIntruder, WeatherDem, BarbinMD, campskunk, oldjohnbrown, ghostofaflea, texasmom, niteskolar, The Termite, Tillie630, FLDemJax, lcrp, 4jkb4ia, lulu57, Chun Yang, barbwires, bwintx, WV Democrat, YetiMonk, parryander, ScienceMom, Leaves on the Current, kd texan, solesse413, Marc in KS, Timroff, murrayewv, greeseyparrot, TexH, sxwarren, rapala, drofx, Fabian, maybeeso in michigan, RazzBari, mjd in florida, irate, PBen, PsychoSavannah, Brooke In Seattle, yogishan, Turkana, michaelmas, dunderhead, GreyHawk, QuickSilver, blue jersey mom, wgard, lasky57, gkn, rolandzebub, AnotherMassachusettsLiberal, palachia, wiscmass, Floja Roja, zinger99, sodalis, desordre remplir, Rogneid, phriendlyjaime, npbeachfun, jeffinalabama, Dania Audax, DisNoir36, Prof Dave, Audio Guy, Major Danby, dsteele2, BachFan, Taunger, Milly Watt, RogueStage, BlueInARedState, emeraldmaiden, Gorette, rcald, Prognosticator, Hear Our Voices, compbear, aphra behn, bladerunner, kck, Lollipops, goodasgold, NBBooks, zigeunerweisen, Lashe, bleeding heart, Cato come back, nolies32fouettes, zeke7237, sarayakat, va dare, means are the ends, kurt, Lew2006, bstotts, Granny Doc, Temmoku, sarasson007, J Royce, FoundingFatherDAR, nhcollegedem, grassrootsbloggerdtcom, Cronesense, SomeStones, possum, moodyinsavannah, Wide Awake in NJ, gloriana, Positronicus, lemming22, laborish, DrWolfy, Marcus Graly, kath25, profmom, ilex, egc, davefromqueens, GeorgeXVIII, Got a Grip, Empower Ink, Razzygirl thinks

    and hope very much that the community will choose to

    • help keep this visible
    • add your comments to this thread
    • pass on information about the report to others.

    The easiest wasy to do the last, publicize the report, is to forward the link for the press release

    I thank you in advance for reading this diary, and I also hope for taking the time to send the information on.

    Peace.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 01:49:40 AM PST

    •  very important. my mom's a former teacher (10+ / 0-)

      and many others in my family too.  (One person, my granddad actually had his shoulder displaced from working at an inner city school.)

      And I remember you from the Webb campaign.  Here's a link for you:
      http://progressiveu.org/...

      Teacherken--speaking of education--please help me with mine on this thread:
      http://www.dailykos.com/...

    •  Suburban Schools vs. Inner City (18+ / 0-)

      In Missouri, there's often an outcry against the St. Louis and Kansas City school districts over the high cost per pupil when compared to out-state districts.  And when you see nice new schools in other districts vs. crumbling old buildings in the cities, it's hard not to think that there's tremendous mismanagement going on.  But the city schools live with huge problems the suburbs haven't (yet) seen.

      1. Shifting populations have meant that existing school buildings are either three-quarters empty, or terribly overloaded.  Desks meant for elementary schools end up used in high schools.  St. Louis overall as a city has lost several hundred thousand people in the years since I've lived here, leaving the district with the option of shipping kids greater distances, or running buildings with a lot of empty space.  But while the city is down overall, some areas have boomed.
      1. No available cheap space for building means that creating a new school entails demolition of existing buildings, acquisition of often high-cost city lots, and building schools in areas people want for business space.  
      1. Resistance to change.  When generations have attended some old brick and granite edifice, there's  a huge momentum to keeping it open.  St. Louis is the city where "where did you go to school" means where did you attend high school?  Each of the city's old schools has a character that's associated with a certain social, fiscal, and racial mix.  People go all their lives thinking of themselves by the school they attended.  Tearing one of these buildings down strikes people as sacrilege, leading to shoving kids into buildings that haven't been up to date since the Hoover administration.

      Just you wait, suburban districts.  You'll get the same problems in a few decades.

      •  some suburban districts have already gone through (8+ / 0-)

        although in district in which I grew up what was the junior high became part of a new 9-12 hs complex with the old hs building, the nearby elementary school became offices and a new Middle School was built on what had been park land a short distance away.  The one good thing is now the middle school kids had their own athletic fields - before that the HS and Jr Hi shared athletic space, which limited the sports that could be done.

        And some older suburbs now have buildings that are well over 50 years old, and showing their age.

        It is a national problem.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:14:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'll take your 50 years and raise you (6+ / 0-)

          50 years is nothing out here in the northeast.  My wife teaches in the same grammer school that my grandfather went to in the late 1920's and the building wasn't new then.  The older buildings can be fine as long as they are maintained but the maintenance is key.

          •  NJ has the oldest school buildings (on average) (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RogueStage, emeraldmaiden

            in the nation. Many of the old buildings are in need of repair, and many of the newer buildings are shoddily constructed. I will say one thing for the older buildings--they are mostly neoclassical in style, and they look like temples of learning. the new schools look just like prisons. Is this the message that we want to send to our kids?

        •  Agreed (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, Geotpf, emeraldmaiden

          In California, where per-pupil funding is about half what it is in most states, all schools are in disrepair.  My mother teaches in a very middle-class elementary school in San Jose.  Here are some of the problems with her school:

          • There are only three toilets available for a staff of 30+ teachers, which doesn't seem too bad until you realize that they all have to use them in the same 20 minute window at recess.  The teachers clean the toilets themselves, because the janitorial staff doesn't do it consistently (even though they're meant to).
          • There are about 10 portable (temporary) classrooms, four of which are about thirty years old.  Ironically, even the ancient temporary buildings are preferred by the teachers because they have thermostats in the rooms that teachers can control.  The permanent part of the school has central, tempramental heating and no air conditioning.
          • In the last school my mom taught at, the classroom next door to hers had a severe mold problem.  District maintenance staff were called out to do something about it on several occasions to no avail.  The mold created a really horrible odor in the classroom, which led to teachers and students getting sick (no mushrooms though).

          You couldn't force a for-profit enterprise to operate under conditions like this, yet we send our children (and our underpaid teachers) into conditions like this without a second thought (or, more accurately, a first thought).  WTF?

        •  More anecdotal evidence (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          emeraldmaiden

          By this time in the school year at my last school I'd have been sick (like fever hallucinations sick) 2 or 3 times with a few other run-of-the-mill colds thrown in. Since I moved on from that district, neither me or my wife have missed a day of work.
          Yeah, I'd say the "physical plant" matters.

      •  YES! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, lcrp, Rogneid

        Thanks for the eloquent post. I have occasion to visit Clark Elementary School once a month, and the place is always very clean, but you can see how handsome a building it is and how difficult it would be to give it up. But the emotional environment inside a building like that can be just as ugly.

        -4.00, -5.33 ST. LOUIS KOSSACKS: Disregard former sig. Gershon plans to reopen Shmeers as a regular deli if he does not get the kosher business this month.

        by 4jkb4ia on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:39:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I am the worst mentor who ever lived (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rogneid

          I am trying to get up courage to explain to the kid that my husband is afraid to transport her in our car.

          -4.00, -5.33 ST. LOUIS KOSSACKS: Disregard former sig. Gershon plans to reopen Shmeers as a regular deli if he does not get the kosher business this month.

          by 4jkb4ia on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:40:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Inner city and 'poor' schools are horrific, (8+ / 0-)

      yet where the rich white kids live, the new schools are amazing and they seemingly get all the extra money...we have to keep the select few 'perfect' type kids getting the best of the best.

      I remember seeing something on tv a while back where they sent kids from one of the rich white schools to an inner city school and they were shocked at the conditions...

      Glad we can fight wars and send hundreds of BILLIONS out of our own country to take over other countries and not attend to our own infrastructure.

      THANKS FOR THE DIARY!!!

      •  All By Design (5+ / 0-)

        Yes, was thinking the same thing - all the money to "rebuild" Iraq when our own kids sit in crumbling buildings, uneducated - becoming a perfect population to recruit into the discretionary wars of the elite.

      •  Maybe (0+ / 0-)

        But actually, I went to school in an up-and-coming suburb and our bathrooms were pretty nasty too. Even the "best" would not be acceptable for any corporation or even a day-care center.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:37:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Japanese have students care for schools (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          frankzappatista

          and I've often wondered if having custodians do cleanup is in fact the best way of doing things?  I don't want to fight this battle, but it sometimes encourages our young people to believe they are not responsible for picking up after themselves.  All we have to do to realize the consequences of developing this kind of attitude is to take a look at some in the leadership of this country  :-)

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:39:24 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  just an explanation (8+ / 0-)

      normally during a school day I could not be responding to people's comments as they were posting.   But all of my classes are taking tests today, so at least during first period, before I have any to correct, I can stay on top of the diary.  Even so, it has been difficult to keep up with the comments!

      Thanks for the attention people are giving to this crucial issue.

      And if I don't immediately respond  to comments a bit later it will be because I have had to focus on my day job!

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:06:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Important post (8+ / 0-)

      It was high time people got specific about the abuse and neglect of the Bush administration in regard to education. Bush left ALL children behind.
      Let's hope we can refurbish our schools, reenergize our teachers, and pay attention to higher education as well in the form of loans, scholarships, interest payments,etc, which were fading fast under Bush.

    •  best diary I have seen (3+ / 0-)

      In a long time.  You set a disturbing scene and give it meaning gracefully in ways we can all understand.

      I hadn't thought of this in so long, not since I can remember going to school and having pails in the hallway.  Now it seems like the most obvious example in a series of issues that we can unite our often divided country around.

    •  thank you so much for posting this (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, emeraldmaiden, lemming22

      This is an issue that's really personal to me.  My middle school was one of those crumbling buildings, with mold, asbestos (which they tried to keep from getting out into the building, but any time a wall crumbled, well, you knew what was inside it, and it took time to get the plastic covers up), mouse poop, falling ceiling tiles (one of which fell, screws and all, onto the head of one my Phys. Ed. classmates, who had to get stitches), and collapsing chimneys.  It was a constant source of distraction, and actually quite terrifying at times, like when a chimney collapsed and fell through the roof of the cafeteria, where my class was doing groupwork (fortunately across from where it fell).  And I don't doubt that it played a major role in aggravating my asthma (I've had a near-constant series of bronchial infections since then).  But despite the fact that these problems were well known in the community, and the place was even condemned by the state fire marshall, it took years and years to finally pass a referendum to build a new, safe school, all because those who had their kids in the private school, or whose kids were long since past school age, just couldn't abide having a tiny tax increase.  They finally put a new one in when I was almost ready to graduate from high school...I hate to think what the classes who went after me had to deal with.

      Any time I hear someone (like my husband's in-laws) complaining about having to pay taxes for something that they or their kids don't use, it's everything I can do to not just explode at them.  Making sure kids are safe at school and have a good environment in which to learn is just part of our civic duty, plain and simple.  Nobody should have to worry that the ceiling's going to fall in on them, or that they're going to get sick just from breathing the air at school.

    •  Incredible. and rec'd of course ..... n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  I believe education is a critical political issue (6+ / 0-)

    and the issue of priorities, of how we confront and adress problems in education are a crucial part of that issue.  I believe it is legitimate for that reason for me to post this diary here.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 03:55:26 AM PST

    •  for me, this says it all! (0+ / 0-)

      The US Dept. of Education commissioned a study required under NCLB on the impact of environmentally unhealthy buildings upon health and learning but when

      The study found "the overall evidence strongly suggests that poor environments in schools due primarily to the effects of indoor pollutants, adversely influence the health performance and attendance of students"

      the report was shelved.

      I thank you teacherken for sharing this with all others and me.

      It is only the giving that makes us what [who] we are. - Ian Anderson. Betsy L. Angert
      Be-Think

      by Bcgntn on Wed Dec 06, 2006 at 07:33:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Disillusioned, sobermom

    Ken this is a great diary.  What I also appreciate is that AFT traditionally advocates for the schools to be built union.

  •  thank you tk (10+ / 0-)

    i have been reading kozol for years so this is not a shock to me...furthermore, i currently volunteer time at the lowest performing high school in the city, one where the heat "usually" works and the students share one set of bathrooms.

    it infuriates me that more Americans don't realize what tens of thousands of children are subject to when they go to that place called "school."

    You write

    Having a functionally safe and healthy learning environment is an important prerequisite to high quality learning for all of our students.

    so very true, why are we standardizing our curriculum before meeting basic standards for buildings? just curious.

    Save public education from corporatisation: Educator Roundtable

    by DeweyCounts on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:07:39 AM PST

  •  I'm lucky in that (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, sobermom, sodalis, laborish

    ...my two kids go to schools that are well-maintained and not over-crowded.  But that shouldn't be a matter of luck.

    Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool-- how much worse lying lips to a ruler - Proverbs 17:7

    by Barbara Morrill on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:08:01 AM PST

    •  agreed - but problem has spread (6+ / 0-)

      as the report makes clear.  What used to be a problem of poor inner city schools and occasionally decaying rural schools has now become much more widespread.  

      Again, I really want us to totally rethink how we do education, so I would not want to begin a process of massive replacement of buildings right now, even with the guidelines to which the AFT points.  But we must remediate where possible as soon as possible, and if we are building new wings or new buildings, then let's at least pay attention to what we know and avoid perpetuating some of the kinds of problems that are now so widespread.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:19:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This was a problem in our district (9+ / 0-)

        leaky roofs, mold, buckets in rooms in the elementary school my kids attended. It took nearly a decade to get the funds approved for a new roof, removal of carpets and new floors in order to fix the problem.

        Our high school was in terrible shape and the funds to remodel were voted down several times. Finally, the high school kids started taking town meeting members on tours through the crumbling science labs, etc., and we got a tax override passed...barely...for a new addition and remodeling of the school.

        This is in a middle to upper-middle class town in MA with very good to excellent schools. Certainly the best in the area.

        Most of the kids attending these schools are white and middle class, with some fairly wealthy kids.

        This isn't just a lower-class problem.

        "Control of the initiative is control of the battle. In the alley, at the poker table or in politics. One must raise." David Mamet

        by coral on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:36:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I have worked for two school districts (18+ / 0-)

    and there are two basic problems, and they occur on the local level.

    The first is that administrators and board members typically have degrees in education and zero expertice in maintenance.  When building new schools, they approve the plans the builders sell them on, not the ones that will last.  Maintenance is not taken into account.  For example, one high school I worked maintenance for had a stainless steel ceiling that went up 40 feet.  Just caring for that one ceiling would have required one worker to work full-time on it year round.

    The second problem is that maintenance is the first thing cut whenever revenues fall or expences unexpectedly jump.  I actually lost my first school district job when they laid off 25% of the maintenance crew.

    Given these two issues, I don't see how additional funding could much improve the situation.  As long as school boards are locally elected and administrators are locally hired, maintenance problems will continue to loom incredibly large.

    Real Patriots Love Freedom

    by greasymadness on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:16:41 AM PST

    •  note the reference to non-local standards (5+ / 0-)

      any loans or grants to address the problem could be legislatively conditioned on independent - at least outside the local district, perhaps at a state level, since if they don't have it states should develop the requisite expertise - evaluation and approval of such plans.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:21:19 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  At any level (5+ / 0-)

        It seems the lack of common sense in physical facilities planning is rampant.  The state in AZ routinely approves cheap work, shoddy construction.  Mention the word, "school", in a construction bid-out, and the contractors see easy money.  The fact that there are very old school building still being used is a testament to the quality of work done then versus the poor ticky-tacky stuff often slapped together today.  Very short-sighted, and ultimately very, very costly in the longer term.
        Grrrrr.....

        "This is not a political problem, it's a social problem." -Deacon

        by jcrit on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:43:05 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Does this surprise anyone? (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coral, teacherken, jcrit, wgard, ignatz uk, DrWolfy

    Our nation prizes the military (that is, military contractors and companies like Halliburton) and the health of corporate CEOs more than students, teachers, or the American educational system.

    "No man should advocate a course in private that he's ashamed to admit in public." -George McGovern

    by Arturo52 on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:17:59 AM PST

    •  Sometimes I wonder (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, vrexford

      with all the rhetoric about national security, how are these people define "national" and "security". They certainly don't include huge swaths...certainly not the majority of Americans in "national".

      And security? I think they are more interested in the comfort of corporate executives than the health and physical well-being of anybody's kids.

      "Control of the initiative is control of the battle. In the alley, at the poker table or in politics. One must raise." David Mamet

      by coral on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:40:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  it's been a problem for a long time ... (8+ / 0-)

    I remember the band room at my high school .. weird stuff falling from the ceiling which ended up being water-damaged asbestos tiles (which they tore out a few years after I left after the band teacher moved to the central office)

    It's all about the appearance of security, stupid!

    by zeke7237 on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:18:21 AM PST

    •  Our band room had flooding problems- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, emeraldmaiden

      and where the director stood there was once a lake about 3" deep. We dubbed it 'Lake Swanson' after the choir director (we shared the space with the choir classes), with 'Montague Island' (a tiny podium) in the middle. Ruined the carpet, and didn't do the piano any favors. Took them weeks to get around to even looking into the problem...

      "It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." -Albus Dumbledore

      by Lainie on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 07:03:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Priorities (10+ / 0-)

    This diary highlights the problems of priorities in our country.   Do we continue to waste billions every year on the military or fund health care, education, and protecting the vulnerable in our society?  I wish I could be more optimistic.  

    A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. - Aristotle

    by DWG on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:24:58 AM PST

  •  Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead (9+ / 0-)

    Is everyone too tired now to dance?  Get up, people, and assert yourselves again- today!  Nov. 7 is a month in the past.  Assert every day.  Support your schools.  Disclaimer:  I teach wonderful kids in a crumbling building while the Superintendent (4-school rural district) is taking home a six-figure paycheck.

    "This is not a political problem, it's a social problem." -Deacon

    by jcrit on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:34:38 AM PST

  •  Solution? Privatize schools (8+ / 0-)

    Maybe then Bush would give them some money.

    BTW this is pure snark.

    My only hope is that maybe now that the adults are in charge some things will get done.  It would be nice though to see the military budget cut by 20% and have that money used more wisely, like in education and defecit reduction and heathcare (not in that order).

    Ken I give you lots of credit.  I was studying to be a History teacher (secondary ed) and after NCLB I decided to scrap that idea completely.  Teachers are heros and only here in the US are they not treated as such.  I have a friend in Portugal who teaches at the University level and once when I went to visit him (when he was teaching High School) I was amazed at the disparity in level of respect.  Even while we were hanging at a cafe late at night, people would come up to him and thank him or call him 'professor sir'.  He was a god among his students (who all hung out at the cafe as well it seemed).  

    Along with the money and better schools, a little respect for our teachers who have to deal with all this crap is long overdue.

  •  I went to one of these high schools (8+ / 0-)

    In Rural NH, we had about 20 portable classrooms.

    Our building was 90 years old, and falling apart.

    I have experienced all of these things.  Bathrooms with no stalls, classrooms in the basement, exposed pipes and roofs that leak, and moldy classrooms.  

    The problem in NH can be traced to our means of funding, or not funding, education.

    Our town tried to build a High School for about 15 years, and the taxpayers kept voting 'No' on the needed bonds.

    Thankfully a couple of years ago they FINALLY passed a bond and a building a new school, but they keep cutting  bits of it out of the final product.  A library with no books, no seats int he auditorium, ect.

    Hopefully our newly elected Democratic Majorities in NH can solve our funding issues.

    Like a Blue New Hampshire? Blue Hampshire. A progressive online community for the Granite State.

    by nhcollegedem on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:37:08 AM PST

    •  while it would be nice if state officials (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Reino, tryptamine, 4jkb4ia, nhcollegedem, ilex

      began to address this issue, some states may lack the resources, which is one reason to advocate for some kind of federal funding, even if it is only guaranteed loans at a low rate of interest.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:54:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It IS a local thing (10+ / 0-)

        I've seen all kinds of levies being turned down by individual cities up here in MN.  Year, after year, after year and it's because the general voting population sees school district admin as being to heavily compensated or with too many people.  This is a multi-layered problem, but I think we could at least start with minimum requirements.  We have OSHA - in the U.S. Department of Labor (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) - why don't we have minimum standards for buildings being enforced under their auspices first?

        Within the NCLB, we need teacher:student maximum ratios.  That would help considerably and also speaks to the building issues.

        There certainly have to be some cost/benefit analyses done on bringing the health issues down.  You mention asthma, teachers being ill, there also has to be benefit in healthcare cost reduction with healthier buildings.

        Maintenance as mentioned previously is also an area that will provide cost/benefit with improvements.  That can be lower heating or cooling costs, just simplified maintenance requiring fewer hours or people.

        And why does it seem so simple to me, and a priority to me, whereby the Fed Gov't doesn't see it that way........sigh.

        •  thanks for your input n/t (0+ / 0-)

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:38:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  local aspect cannot be overstated (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            teacherken, elfling, lemming22

            kfred makes a valid point.

            In my previous life, I was an administrator for one of the "best public school districts in the country." Hands down. Here's what I discovered:

            1. Purchases for technology were handled only through additional referenda, some of which asked the citizenry to extend expenditures above the legislated limits; and
            1. The same thing for maintenance or any bricks & mortar expenditure for repairs.

            In other words, maintenance and repair are not built into the ongoing budget!

            Even in an area that highly values education, it is very hard to get the voters to agree to "raise taxes," which is also the argument that the R's have successfully used against us libruls: we are tax and spend (instead of the borrow and squander administration we currently have).

            OT, but somewhat related: we need to take away and redefine the R framing of taxes as always being bad.

            While one-time funds, or even ongoing funds for qualifying schools at the national level could be helpful, the lack of adequate funding processes at the local level should be addressed. National or even state funding alone won't do it.

            Anticipated and ongoing maintenance needs should be part of the regular local school district budget. Specific projects should/can be included in the local district budget, as well as a contingency fund for the unexpected.

            "You can count on Americans to do the right thing after they've tried everything else." -- Winston Churchill

            by bleeding heart on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:26:36 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  If you're an educator, choosing between books and (0+ / 0-)

              a new roof or new windows or paint, it's hard to pick the building maintenance over the immediate instructional needs, even if you do truly understand that the maintenance can't be put off forever.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 10:27:13 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Property tax? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Geotpf

          Are your schools financed by property taxes, I would guess they are. People don't like to vote new taxes on themselves.

          Dammit when god screws-up you are allowed to take his name in vain.

          by AuntieM on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 07:01:00 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Huge issue in NH (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      coral, teacherken, 4jkb4ia, nhcollegedem

      The inequities are staggering.  My Dad was in Hollis, which has state of the art everything.  My aunts taught in Rochester and Claremont which were far more strapped for supplies.  My niece moved from Hillsborough to Amherst and was shocked at how much nicer the school is and how many electives she can choose from.

      I'm not sure where the Dems can go on this issue with the no sales tax no income tax pledge by Lynch.  I thought Shaheen might have fixed it when she was in but the Rep opposition was too strong.  Truly, how can there be parity without a way to redistribute funds?

      "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, and the dream shall never die." Ted Kennedy

      by sobermom on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:15:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed (5+ / 0-)

        The republicans who neglected to solve the funding issues in NH, trying to keep themselves in office, directly caused the problems in my town.  

        The problem stems from relying almost entirely on local property taxes.  Land rich communities have great schools, and land poor ones have crumbling ones.

        There are viable options that are being discussed, like the Peterson Plan.  We're talking about htis issue over at Blue Hampshire.

        Like a Blue New Hampshire? Blue Hampshire. A progressive online community for the Granite State.

        by nhcollegedem on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:26:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  of course (0+ / 0-)
        the solution to this is not more taxes per se. The solution is raising education financing to at least state level.

        That would decrease the amount of luxury in the rich places, and improve the poor ones. Oh, and the middle class, who can no longer run away from bad schools, will be more perceptive to its financial responsibility.

        If people are serious about getting education in order, there will have to be quite a few holy cows to be slaughtered. And that means also a good hard look at cost issues, some of which are dear to the heart of democratic voters. This includes things like the concept of "oversight by trial lawyer", special education (for which, apparently, cost is not an issue), as well as the lavishly run schools in rich districts who cater to every educational trend that is coming along.

        My personal opinion is that it will basically stay unchanged. There is not enough political will to do hard but necessary steps.

  •  This is a very important topic (18+ / 0-)

    I belong to a group that studies school construction and renovation nationwide. We have a serious problem in this country. About 5 years ago, the GAO said that 40% of our schools were actually "uninhabitable." I don't know where that figure is now, but with war spending and Republican priorities, it is very likely to be far worse.

    The implications of the problem go far beyond mere health and safety issues. The walls define the curriculum in many cases. Teachers have given up laboratory science because they don't have hot water, safe storage, ventillation or fire control. Rooms are so crowded that teachers are terrified of any active learning at all.

    Thanks, Ken. I know that topics of election and electability are often more "sexy" and more likely to be recommended in this forum, but this sort of problem forms a cornerstone of tomorrow's democracy. At DK we must expand our mutual sensitivities to the problems of our communities, and become stronger advocates for progressive government in the process. What better place to start than the school around the corner.

  •  I've always been somewhat (7+ / 0-)

    fortunate.  I don't recall any problems in the schools I attended even though my 5th and 6th grade building was the same one in which my mother attended high school.  It had been ooverhauled repeatedly through the years and functioned fine as long as it was designated for the proper number of children.

    My son has had pretty decent success with buildings as well except for two instances.  The first was the most egregious.  He was in an integrated preschool class when he was 3, half of the class were kids with special needs, half were peer role models without any delays.  There were 2 preschool classes and the crazy thing was that due to overcrowding they had to share the same classroom with a removable wall down the middle.  Think about it, kids with special needs who easily get overstimulated by noise and chaos--32 of them, 2 teachers, 4 aides, and assorted speech, pt, and ot therapists in and out of the same classroom.  They were planning to do the same thing the following year and we ended up having to threaten the special needs director that we would go to DOE.  They got their separate classrooms the following year but the art teacher had to do art-on-a-cart traveling to the 1st and 2nd grade classrooms.

    The more minor issue is the heating in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade building he's in now.  He's in the old part of the building and on the 3rd floor the heat can be staggering in late May and June because there is no air conditioning.  And it also runs too hot in the winter which I suspect is the cause of far more absences due to strep (which is epidemic in Jan, Feb and March) and other illnesses that have the kids out frequently.

    My Dad was a teacher and principal in the same town for 33 years.  He oversaw the building of the middle school which he was assigned as principal.  I was young, maybe 4th grade, and I remember his outrage with both the plans and the workmanship.  The building was approved by the school board and the superintendant and he thought it was a ridiculous design.  He turned out to be right on both counts as they had serious problems with the roof leaking in the first 5 years, significant enough that they had to have on-call maintenance people for when it rained and snowed.  Fortunately it was an exptremely wealthy town and they appropriated another huge amount to basically rebuild the newest school in town.  This time they listened to the people who actually inhabited the building, although my Dad was at many school board meeting until 1:30 am only to be back in school at 6.

    We had plenty of Holt and Kozol on our shelves growing up so I'm well aware that we had it good.

    "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, and the dream shall never die." Ted Kennedy

    by sobermom on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:08:53 AM PST

  •  I'm on a parent committee (14+ / 0-)

    here in our little burb that gives recommendations on what we'd like to see in school buildings.  One of the top priorities from all 15 of us is to move away from the mega-schools that are being built.  More neighborhood schools, with perhaps 4 or 5 sharing a principal.  the giant schools that are being built are not at all cost-efficient and the "you're just a number" attitude of everyone in that school is so detrimental to every aspect of learning.  We are all just parents, with no specialized degrees, yet we can see the demographic changes in the areas and where the new schools need to be built, but the state can't.  It boggles my mind, since they supposedly employ people who's sole job is to look at these trends and plan.  My kids' school now has 25 kids per class.  2 years ago, it was 15-18.  It can't go on.

    On another note, my sister works in a mold-ridden school.  She is allergic to the mold and has asked repeatedly to be moved or to have her classroom de-molded.  Administration tells her again and again that they'll take care of it, but 4 years later and nothing has been done.  She misses work on the worst days and suffers through the congestion, sneezing and headaches on the less-intense days.  Doesn't make for a very productive teacher...

    •  there is another advantage of mini schools (7+ / 0-)

      which is that you can have somewhat different instructional models in each, and thus better serve the diverse learning styles of our students.

      Again, I have reluctance to see us simply move ahead with building totally new replacement buildings.  But we do have to address current overcrowding, and there may be some buildings that are simply beyond the possibility of rehabilitation.  As much as I want to move in the direction of total redesign of schools, and with full realization that investing billions in plant and facilities may interfere with that, I do not wish to see more students go through the indignities and worse of many of our current buildings, and I don't want to see any more teachers getting sick and even dying from sick buildings.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:18:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not to pimp (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Athena, elfling, PsychoSavannah

        But the idea of moving to smaller schools was one of hte policies that Edwards had in 2004 that drew me to the campaign and helped convince me that he understood the problems of regular Americans (he has and does send his kids to public schools).

        "We need to ask America to adopt a new kind of patriotism, a patriotism about something more than just war." -- John Edwards

        by philgoblue on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:52:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  since you are off topic (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Disillusioned

          I will note that I had a conversation with one of his staffers this weekend because as is the case with ALL candidates I want to know everything they have to say about education, and as I did in the congressional cycle I am willing to talk with any campaign (I don't expect it to be the presidential candidate) about education policy.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:57:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  It's not even (7+ / 0-)

        mini-schools that we're advocating.  We just don't want 5,000 students in a high school.  And that is the trend for the new buildings that are going up and we all find it ridiculous.  It shouldn't take 7 minutes to walk to your next class!

        On a little lighter note:  one of the women in our group has adamantly demanded that any new buildings that are built have windows that open.  She firmly believes that windows that don't open cause buildings to get "sicker quicker".  She's funny as can be in her demands, but her point is serious.  One of the men is an engineer and tried to explain to her that closed buildings are easier to maintain.  She shot him down in a second, reminding him that fresh air is ALWAYS better than anything manufactured and during the fall and spring months, no "conditioning" of the air would be necessary, thereby saving a ton of money in electricity costs.

        Sometimes I really wonder who killed common sense.....

        •  ah the lack of windows (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tryptamine

          that is one of only two good things about being in a temporary building.  1 - I have windows that open.   2 - I control my own air / heat.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:07:38 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Daylight Improves Learning (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            teacherken, 4jkb4ia, PsychoSavannah

            as I'm sure you know. There are great studies out there proving a direct relationship between daylight and attitude in school buildings. My son recently switched classrooms and the best part was that he moved from a no-window room to a room with a full wall of windows. I know my psyche breathes easier in that new room.

            My husband is an architect with expertise in school construction and is LEED certified (greenbuilding guidelines). Let me know if you ever want to tap his knowledge.

          •  I don't understand the problem with the portables (0+ / 0-)

            They have four walls and a ceiling, HVAC, electricity, desks, a whiteboard, sometimes plumbing.

            Who cares if it's one big building or a bunch of small ones?

            •  18 X 30 (0+ / 0-)

              very little board space

              quite often over 30 sudent desks crammed in

              little storage space for magterials

              limited if any access to intenet in classroom

              just a few of the problems

              Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

              by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 11:56:16 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  also consider cost, transition for students (0+ / 0-)

              in winter or downpour students may have to carry coats all day -- if it is raining you have all these umbrellas coming in dripping water, etc

              and with what we pay for rentals, after 10 years it would have been cheaper to have build an annex

              Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

              by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 11:57:29 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  seriously, this needs to be fought (0+ / 0-)

          Among the theories for why schools should not have windows is they're worried about snipers. Seriously.

          There are better ways to solve the problem - Lexan, inner courtyards, whatever - if people really believe that this is a problem.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:44:34 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  High schools -- (0+ / 0-)

          High schools I don't have a problem with.  A larger high school means more opportunities for "special" classes -- e.g. more languages offered, more extracurricular activities, etc.

          It's elementary schools (and to some extent middle schools) that need to be smaller and more local.

    •  This is truly sad (0+ / 0-)

      You mentioned "mini-schools" below. Cities such as New York are experimenting with smaller schools and more personal attention because huge schools aren't effective in motivating people. This is not a problem for the inner city alone.

      -4.00, -5.33 ST. LOUIS KOSSACKS: Disregard former sig. Gershon plans to reopen Shmeers as a regular deli if he does not get the kosher business this month.

      by 4jkb4ia on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:51:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would love to see Americans abandon the (0+ / 0-)

        "middle school" concept. These schools are generally large and impersonal. they are exactly the wrong model for 11-14 year olds who are going through dramatic physical and emotional changes. I would preser to see a return to smaller K-8 schools.

        •  Another advantage (0+ / 0-)

          of having the 6th graders at least in the same school as the little kids is that they can serve as role models.

          -4.00, -5.33 "I expected to hear from the usual well-read laymen, and overeducated computer scientists."--DovBear

          by 4jkb4ia on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 10:26:29 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Our school system has a middle school (0+ / 0-)

          But it's colocated with the elementary and still very small. It's separated instructionally and administratively. It's small enough that they can take the whole school on overnight field trips.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 10:29:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  A Taxpayer Open House Day (13+ / 0-)

    is an idea I've thought of proposing to our school board and its funding body, the board of county commissioners. Throw open the doors, beg the public to come and see the environment that children and teachers face everyday. And ask the visitors "would you want to work here?"  The part I haven't got 100% figured out is how to get those perennial opponents to visit. Our paper routinely runs LTEs stating that if a family has no children in the system, they shouldn't have to pay for it. No sense of shared responsibility . . . how can it not occur to them that other childless people funded their education?

    •  should people with no cars not pay for roads? (5+ / 0-)

      Somehow some people have lost the idea of the common good.  At least some of our earlier states had the idea of Commonwealth - MA, PA, VA and then later KY.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:22:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Billing Only for Services Used (5+ / 0-)

        is a fantasy of some, apparently.

        Education needs better PR. Some way to dramatically shift people's thinking so that without question, schools are funded. What, in your opinion, is the root cause of the utter lack of regard for fully funding public schools? Is it anti-government? Is it because education has been a predominantly female-led experience?

        •  "Education needs better PR" absolutely! n/t (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          philgoblue, Disillusioned, tryptamine

          "Control of the initiative is control of the battle. In the alley, at the poker table or in politics. One must raise." David Mamet

          by coral on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:49:04 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Teachers believe in a meritocracy (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SuburbanBlue

          The good ones, anyway; and they don't really understand in their soul the need for marketing or that the community has no idea about the good things that they do unless they are told. And they're busy - so writing an article about something wonderful seems like fluff. But this is an area where parents can really help too.

          Those of us in the business world learn early and often that the company with the best marketing department, not the best product, wins.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:48:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  huh? (0+ / 0-)

            Teachers have been slapped around with that,"business people know better" line for so long it doesn't hurt anymore.
            You got really close to it when you said that this is an area for parent support.  However, the kiddies most in need don't have parents in a marketing department.
            I think that one of the problems is that now as America begins to look less and less Caucasian, better off Americans are not supporting public education.
            After all they're not "our" kids.
            This is why so  many of our kids are fighting and dying in a foreign land.  There are more than a few people who don't see them as "our sons and daughters".  Folks want tax breaks and don't care if it is on the backs of little children or our veterans.

            John Edwards really hit the nail on the head when he talks about two Americas.
            Sadly, so true.
            Because TexMex has gone from a childhood of sever educational deprivation to a life of privilege but has always remembered what it was like to be so despised as a small Mexican American child that she was gerrymandered into a school district for poor brown children.  Years later in the Buffalo, I saw the same thing only now it was poor Black Americans, Puerto Ricans Americans, poor Irish, poor Italian, etc. So in the end maybe it is NOT about being Brown or Caucasian but about being poor.

            I am so sick of hearing "we just can't throw money at schools".  As if we ever did.

            New Spangish word for ya Daily Kos's

            Pinche=stingy

            •  Read it again (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Geotpf, SuburbanBlue

              I am not being disrespectful to teachers at all - indeed, they DO know their stuff when it comes to teaching the kids. What they don't really realize is how important it is to toot their own horns - being humble ends up hurting good schools because the parents and community members, especially ones without kids in that school yet, don't realize how much good is going on.

              Sandra Tsing Loh's Scandalously Informal Guide to LAUSD is a great example of how schools that look scary on the outside are doing good things, and how some parents choose private schools just based on the public school's curb appeal. This is a good lesson for both parents and school staff about communicating better and reaching out.

              I believe the most helpful image for you is to think of the LAUSD as like Costco.

              Costco has frightening parking, ugly lighting, and daunting 30-foot-high high towers of Bounty paper towels.  But look closely and you’ll find a jaw-dropping price on Glenlivet, hothouse cherry tomatoes and, oh my God. . . Yo Yo Ma.  What is YO YO MA doing here?

              Alternately, the LAUSD is like IKEA.  Some boxes of treasure, some boxes of crap--their titles a nightmare of umlauts. . . all of which you will have to self-assemble.  I’ve seen people sit on the floor and break into tears on the showroom floor of IKEA because it’s ALL TOO OVERWHELMING. . . !  Same with the LAUSD.

              Let us talk frankly, too, about the physical exterior of public schools.  Let’s talk aesthetics.

              An LA journalist friend once told me he could not bear to even imagine his twins INSIDE their corner LAUSD elementary.  For him, it was the sheer institutional look of the place: the chainlink fence, putty-colored buildings, cracked asphalt, prison-like windows covered with those metal storm meshy things. . .

              "Just driving by it," he murmured, "even the grass made me sad."  He lacked the emotional strength to get out of his  Prius and mount the steps.  Fortunately, he and his wife are independently wealthy, and can pay $38,000 a year ($19,000 per twin) so their six year-olds can go to a hilltop school sans concrete, to honor diversity amidst foliage.

              And after those negative first impressions of the LAUSD, then come second impressions.

              Once you attempt to pierce The Borg, its leathery hide may prove surprisingly tough.  People manning LAUSD phones lack a sharp charisma.  When asked if a school gives parent tours, front office staffers may look up from their typewriters and stare dully at one, as though in disbelief.  Ukrainian-style customer service, can be the LAUSD.

              Meanwhile, LA Unified is busily and eagerly offering parents things no parent in his right mind would ever want. . . Parents are continually being invited to fill out 20-part surveys, to form inter-district committees, or to hump across town to attend focus group-style meetings with titles so boring they make you fall right into a coma.

              Even as we mock, though, it is worth taking a moment to consider the big picture. . . to form at least a Zen understanding of the shambling ways of The Behemoth.

              Which is to say public education is founded on the same principles as, well. . . as democracy.  And we know how tedious that can be.  Have you ever been to an city council meeting where EVERYONE gets to speak, or hastily clicked past such a meeting on Cityview Channel 35 or Cableview Channel 94 or whatever that terrifyingly-lit channel is?

              Accordingly, one of LA Unified’s most basic mandates is "equity and access."  This means proximity to municipal bus lines needs to be considered, homeless parents be not discriminated against, and handouts must always be available in Spanish, Tagalog, Armenian, and Farsi.  It means magnet school applications cannot be available online as WELL as at schools and libraries, because that might put at a slight disadvantage parents without computer access, parents without an awareness of the Internet ("El Internet?  Que?"), parents whose native language does not even have an alphabet ("Internet--aeiiee!!! [strange clicking sound]"), or parents without, well, frickin’. . . FINGERS TO TYPE.

              On the upside, you would not wish these parents NOT to be helped.  You can’t say you’re AGAINST democracy.

              And it also means the LAUSD owes YOUR kids a free education.

              Let’s see what they’ve got!

              Don't you fear, I am spending plenty of quality time supporting my school, and I am heartened by how sensitive the staff is at making sure that all the kids get what they need regardless of family income. I hear constantly about parents having to purchase supplies - all we had to buy was a backpack. Everything else is provided, and even backpacks are available free for those in need.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 10:40:10 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  This is the most important issue facing us today (6+ / 0-)

        Whether we are a community of citizens or merely random individuals existing in the same market-place.

        "We need to ask America to adopt a new kind of patriotism, a patriotism about something more than just war." -- John Edwards

        by philgoblue on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:49:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Alot of elderly people (5+ / 0-)

      who are living on fixed incomes are "house rich" but income poor.  They can't afford to keep paying higher and higher property taxes each year when their income doesn't rise proportionately and they want to stay in the homes they have lived in all their lives.  These are the people at least in my city who always vote no.

      We need to find another way to fund our schools.

      Man who live in glass house wear pajama!

      by sylvien on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:14:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  that is an issue for recinventing education (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sylvien

        which is what we will be trying to do for ykos 2007  stay tuned

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:15:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Can the elderly participate? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tryptamine, SuburbanBlue, Cronesense

        Use the schools in the evening as senior centers, with students involved in interacting with the older folk who need company and support.  Use the healthier old folks as tutors or mentors in the school environment.  If people have a stake in the school it will be more of a priority to support.  Not the cure for really high property taxes, but it will help to really have community involvement in schools.  BTW I remember when our local pre-school and rec center was falling apart in DC, the parents and older kids did an awful lot of the restoration work--and learned a lot.  Probaby too many liability concerns these days to go that route, but it gave the community a real stake in the school.

        Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

        by barbwires on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:27:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  we do need to rethink use of public facilities (4+ / 0-)

          of whether school buildings should be isolated from rest of community.  One could combine school and public libraries and recreational facilities.   There are a lot of things we need to rethink nowadays.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:30:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  The high school has a pool (4+ / 0-)

          that offers water aerobics and community swim time for everyone that that's pretty much it.  

          Getting everyone in the community involved with the schools can only be a good thing but we need to find some other way to pay for schools.  It isn't just the elderly either.  Inner city school districts are increasingly losing homeowners and those left behind are too poor to pay anything.  What happens when there is no one left to pay?

          Man who live in glass house wear pajama!

          by sylvien on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:40:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  volunteer labor too (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          barbwires

          What about teaching kids about home systems and building repair with some hands-on volunteer work for credit, guided by an experienced construction mentor, using the ROP system? Think Habitat for Humanity.

          I know some areas have used volunteers for this kind of project.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:50:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I spent 6 years on a school board in NJ. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          teacherken

          Our district does senior citizen lunches that showcase the drama and music departments. These are quite popular. However, one problem with the seniors using the buildings at night is that many of our seniors do not drive at night. In our community, many seniors are house-poor as well. They simply can't afford the rising property taxes. There is no easy answer. In NJ most of public K-12 education is funded through local property taxes. A system that was based on income would be much fairer, but I don't expect to see significant tax reform in my lifetime.

      •  property taxes are no way to fund education (5+ / 0-)

        for one thing it dooms inner city communities. And you are right about how bad it is for house rich, funds poor seniors etc.

        Property taxes are a fairly regressive tax frankly. I think that seeing as corporations benefit in the long run from having an educated workforce that maybe our corporate citizens (heh) could be paying more taxes to support the schools that our future economy will need. I mean grandma has less money than Pfizer. Its a fact.

    •  You've Inspired Me (0+ / 0-)

      to actually think seriously about this idea.

      I left out that aside from letting people see the conditions inside some schools, it would also let taxpayers who have no real connection with the students see the student's work. You cannot help but fall in love when you read student work and see their earnest hopefulness. Manipulative? You bet.

    •  A great idea in general (0+ / 0-)

      I think more schools should have a community open house, to connect both with parents and with potential parents and with other members of the community. Let them see the classwork, meet the staff, view the facilities.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:46:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  In my school (7+ / 0-)

    The middle school in which I spend most of my time isn't nearly as bad as some of the schools in this report, or even in the state.  Even still, we can't go a year without seeing a bucket in the hall catching water dripping in through the roof.  Temperature differences are extreme- early last week when it was 70 degrees outside the heat had already been turned on (from being almost 30 degrees cooler the week before).  This doesn't mean that heat was always blowing, just that they couldn't get cool air into rooms.  So any room with windows facing the sun got so hot kids were sweating just from sitting still.  There are only two boys restrooms in the school with stalls with doors.  Some of them were removed for "safety reasons," others just fell/were yanked off and never replaced.
    Schools with these kinds of problems are not isolated cases of extreme poverty.  This school is in a rural school district, but it's not nearly as bad as some.

  •  Raw sewage, mold, and mice droppings (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cookiebear, laborish

    And Karnack says, "Things you find on a frozen pizza."

    This time, vote Blue. Next time, vote Bluer.

    by Busted Flat in Baton Rouge on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:44:13 AM PST

  •  Thank you teacherken. (5+ / 0-)

    While I am tempted to open the pdf, it is a huge one for my rickity computer to load.
    I wonder if the words "huge sludge pond sitting 150 feet above Marsh Fork Elementary School" is listed as a problem. The school is in the lower left of the picture.

  •  A most important diary! (8+ / 0-)

    In addition to inadequate facilities, I am reminded of when the metropolitan area with which I am familiar went from neighborhood schools to consolidated ones... in the interest of economies.

    Not only were the economies never realized, but there were the attendent social problems.  Instead of maybe 1000 children from one area of the community, their parents knowing each other, etc., the children were shipped daily to "factories" of 5000-6000.  Neighborhood cohesion was damaged; the schools were no longer the personal worlds of the students; they were impersonalized, or more appropriately, depersonalized; social frictions increased; economies that were promised were not achieved; the increased bussing increased costs (and pollution); it was a fiscal and social mess, and continues to this day!

    Life is not a 'dress rehearsal'!

    by wgard on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:49:26 AM PST

  •  I will read the full report later, but (12+ / 0-)

    for now I just want to make a quick comment before leaving for work:

    "Our public infrastructure in general is deteriorating."

    In my opinion, this is the money sentence in the entire diary. Not that I don't think school buildings are important -- I do -- but this report is just the beginning.

    For decades we have put "lower taxes" and "government is the problem" ahead of basic government functions. As a result, a whole host of problems are coming home to roost. Roads, bridges, buildings, parks, equipment, technology -- we are losing our investments through a combination of graft, incompetence, and lack of funding.

    Underlying it all, though, is a general lowering of expectations of government itself by the public at large. We are no longer shocked or angered when graft is exposed. We make jokes when bridges aren't painted, or buildings leak, or basic services are delivered poorly or not at all.

    We have to address the school facility crisis -- of that there is no doubt. But we ALSO have to address the expectation crisis, so that everyday citizens EXPECT their government to be BOTH effecient and effective.

    I know I sound like a holdover from another era, but I truly believe it: "public service" is an honorable calling, and "public servant" is neither a fantasy nor a punchline.

    Bruce in Louisville
    And the blog is Eclectic Thinker

    by bmaples on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 05:52:27 AM PST

  •  My sister is a special ed teacher (8+ / 0-)

    in the old building I attended 40-some years ago.  A high incidence of sick kids and sick teachers prompted an investigation (after a lot of screaming and teeth pulling on the part of the teachers.)  The mold uncovered behind the walls was unbelievable.  

    It's bad enough that the teachers, staff, and healthy kids have been exposed, but all of my sister's kids are dealing with a myriad of health problems.  Can you imagine sending your child with Cystic Fibrosis to school to breathe in mold all day?  It's an outrage.

  •  What is not important? (11+ / 0-)

    This jumped out at me:

    They see the conditions in which they attend school and quickly draw the conclusion that their learning is really not important, otherwise they would not be subjected to such indignities.  

    True. But I think our children take another message from this. They conclude that they are not important.

    (Now off to teach at my community college, where I struggle daily trying to reassure students who have grown up being taught that they are not important, that what they have been taught is wrong.)

    The only thing Republicans do well is take our tax dollars and transfer them to the rich, instead of providing the services we thought we were paying for.

    by Janet Strange on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:03:34 AM PST

  •  Look, the d___ schools will have to wait, (0+ / 0-)

    we have a war to win!

    Buy bonds!

    Dana Curtis Kincaid Ad Astra per Aspera! http://www.angrytoyrobot.blogspot.com The enemy is not man, the enemy is stupidity.

    by angrytoyrobot on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:05:18 AM PST

  •  On my last visit to (12+ / 0-)

    my elder son's middle school, I stopped and used the girl's bathroom.

    There was water puddled on the floor.  First thing in the morning and the place was filthy.

    To prevent "over use" of the cheap-ass toilet paper, the rollers prevented more than one sheet at a time being torn off (really good for young girls having their periods, eh?)

    Most abysmal were the sinks: each sink had a double-handled faucet, which were spring loaded; when you let go of the handle, the water stopped flowing.  There were no stoppers so one could fill a sink with water within which to wash one's hands (and remember, one isn't able to get an adequate supply of toilet paper with which to wipe oneself).  It was impossible to do more than dampen the hands.

    And there was one -- one -- soap dispenser, at the far end of the bathroom, for a line of a dozen or so sinks.

    Now, it's hard enough to get middle-school students to develop good hygene practices.  It's abominable to have toilet facilities that work against the development of such practices.  And it is horrific that young, menstruating girls (and at 11 to 13 they are still girls mentally, if not physically) are subjected to the humiliation of not being able to access sufficient toilet paper with which to clean themselves.

    Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? - Ian Frazier, Lamentations of the Father

    by Frankenoid on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:07:23 AM PST

    •  Not to Mention no Hot Water (5+ / 0-)

      Such a small thing, but it is really uncomfortable to wash with cold water. I know it's a safety measure (or is it cost?), but there are regulators that can be installed.

    •  What about notifying the local Dept.ofHealth? nt (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken

      > 518,000 American children are in foster care. Got any bandwidth?

      by kck on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:29:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  sometimes local govts exempt themselves (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        esquimaux

        from the laws they impose, just as Congress used to.

        I worked in a County owned office building before I became a teacher.   The space between desks/cubicles was in violation of the firecode, and they did not send us home when there was a water failure.  In a non-governmental building neither of those situations would have gone without a citation.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:33:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I would get every parent to lobby the DoH anyway. (0+ / 0-)

          > 518,000 American children are in foster care. Got any bandwidth?

          by kck on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 09:23:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Last year my son's science (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            teacherken, kck

            class was doing some project or another, and decided to test the school's drinking water.  Because, you know, the stuff is yellow.  And they investigated having the water supply deemed undrinkable because it is contaminated.

            They got nowhere; as Ken says, schools are held to a different (or no) standard.

            Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? - Ian Frazier, Lamentations of the Father

            by Frankenoid on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 09:27:17 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Our county health (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kck

              dept. comes by twice a year to inspect the kitchen, take food and cooler/freezer temps and test the water.  We get written up if everything isn't up to standards.  

              Could you contact your local TV/newspaper about this?  

              Man who live in glass house wear pajama!

              by sylvien on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 10:26:40 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Drinking water tests here at least annually (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kck

              I get a very boring report from the school at the beginning of the year showing the water testing results (they are on a well).

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 10:43:55 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Adds to absenteeism (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geotpf

      It's one of those other subtle things that encourages girls having a period to just stay home sick.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:53:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Already do that with "zero-tolerance" (6+ / 0-)

        drug policies.

        Students are not allowed to carry OTC (or prescription, for that matter) pain relievers.  Parents can sign a waiver allowing to have their child go to the school nurse, who will dispense the minimum dose of ibuprofin or acetaminophen.

        Given the intensity of menstrual cramps that most teenagers experience (yowza!  do I remember that!), a single Tylenol or Motrin is unlikely to do much beyond take the edge off.

        I mean, I'm 47, and have borne children, so my cramping is much less severe; I'm of like size to most girls that age, yet still, the first day of my period it takes at least 2, sometimes 3, ibuprofin to give relief.

        Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? - Ian Frazier, Lamentations of the Father

        by Frankenoid on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 09:24:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Radioactive high school & no one cared. (13+ / 0-)

    I spent my senior year studying radioactivity at my high school, which was especially easy given the peanut butter-sized jar of uranium acetate our school had in the chem lab. Part of my study was to check the radon levels in the school, something I wish I wouldn't have done.

    First, the levels in the weightroom (the lowest room in the building) was dangerously high. If you spent 20 hours a week in this room, it was equivalent to smoking a carton of cigarettes every week. The rest of the school wasn't as bad, but the weight room was a death trap.

    I turned in my findings to the principal, who often worked out in the weight room to keep up his health & impress/scare the students. He dismissed the entire report, while thanking me for my concern.

    Within three years of graduating high school, we lost three educators from heart attacks. The first was the chemistry teacher, followed by the gym teacher (who was very fit but worked out with the weights quite often), and finally the principal himself, a man of great health. Or so we thought.

    Noone ever bothered with the report, and the school is still open. After my graduation, the middle school was found to have serious health issues, so it was closed and a new middle school built. Now the old middle school is the town movie theater.

    It still sickens me to this day.

    "I'm not an actor, but I play one on TV."

    by zeitshabba on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:10:55 AM PST

  •  What it Takes to make A Student (4+ / 0-)

    http://www.nytimes.com/... was an article by Paul Tough in the NYTimes Magazine on 11/26 on the state of urban education with reference to NCLB. I urge people to read it. It does not necessarily refer to the state of infrastructure but if we beleive in the value of public education as a common good we need to answer the question do we want the goals of NCLB to be met?

    "The evidence is now overwhelming that if you take an average low-income child and put him into an average American public school, he will almost certainly come out poorly educated. What the small but growing number of successful schools demonstrate is that the public-school system accomplishes that result because we have built it that way. We could also decide to create a different system, one that educates most (if not all) poor minority students to high levels of achievement. It is not yet entirely clear what that system might look like — it might include not only KIPP-like structures and practices but also high-quality early-childhood education, as well as incentives to bring the best teachers to the worst schools — but what is clear is that it is within reach.
    >Although the failure of No Child Left Behind now seems more likely than not, it is not too late for it to succeed. We know now, in a way that we did not when the law was passed, what it would take to make it work. And if the law does, in the end, fail — if in 2014 only 20 or 30 or 40 percent of the country’s poor and minority students are proficient, then we will need to accept that its failure was not an accident and was not inevitable, but was the outcome we chose."

    •  major problems with Togh piece (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tryptamine, elie

      which I can unfornatelynately not go into here.  While he touches on some of the problems with trying to expand the KIPP approach, he does not directly address the problems with the approach itself - there is as yet no longitudinal data which will clearly show better overall ability to learn and function in a less structured environment, such as college.

      One wellknown writer on education described the KIPP approach as the equivalent of a lowgrade penitentiary in how they treat the students.  I have some problems with the approach in that regard as well.

      I do not think test scores are the end all and be all of all schools, and KIPP is very much oriented that way.

      But that is a topic for a different time.  I thought I would at least offer a partial response to your comment because of the effort you put into it.

      NCLB was failure from the beginning -  the very idea of 100% proficiency could only be achieved or even approached if the standards were lowered.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:25:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks But (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SuburbanBlue

        Thanks but he is not limiting his suggestion to KIPP or KIPP like schools .  His main point as I read it is that we need to put more resources into the system targeted at the non middle class students who start out at a disadvantage if we really want to raise the proficiency level of all to some higher standard. On the main point of your diary I live here in DC and we are committed to spending  a billion plus over ten years to refurbish, rebuild our schools. My wife works at a newly build elementary school which had input from the teaching staff from design through build. It is impressive and we hope will further the education of the students in it.
        On NCLB and the validity of its approach I reccommend
        'Proficiency for All' – An Oxymoron
        By
        Richard Rothstein, Rebecca Jacobsen, and Tamara Wilder
        Paper prepared for the Symposium, "Examining America's Commitment to Closing Achievement Gaps: NCLB and Its Alternatives," sponsored by the Campaign for Educational Equity, Teachers College, Columbia University, November 13-14, 2006
        Towards the end of the paper is this
        "If we truly wanted to narrow the achievement gap substantially, while also improving the achievement of middle class white children, we must do more than hold schools accountable for improvement. Accountability is a necessary, but not sufficient component of reform. Also necessary is a program of improvements likely, not only to generate effect sizes of 0.3 or more in the foreseeable future, but also to enable disadvantaged children to enter school more ready to learn.
        Such a program would undoubtedly be costly, but must consist of more than an indiscriminate increase in school spending. It should be based on the best research presently available about what is required to dramatically raise student outcomes.
        What would we do, how long would it take, and how much would it cost? What follows is another thought experiment, in this case one which ignores political realities." There follows a detailed set of reccommendations.

        •  I was responding quickly (0+ / 0-)

          and passing on several comments about what unfortunately many will take away from his article, which is the praise of KIPP, which I and others think is misplaced.  Sorry if my comment was unclear.  I also may not have read your comment closely enough.

          As to the Rothstein et al report, it is quite important, and am glad that you chose to reference it.  Thanks.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 07:27:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Harlan County, KY (9+ / 0-)

    has several schools on each end of this report's findings - some spanking-new and fresh, but most are in abysmal condition. While the county school administration agitates for consolidation (and thus building big new facilities to replace three-four aging ones), the communities fight to keep their schools despite their less-than-ideal condition because the loss of the middle- or high-school means the communities continue to lose their distinctiveness and their 'centering' place.

    No easy answers 'cept for one 'truism' - there's no shortage of 'work' that needs to be done on the landscape, there's just a shortage of available wages to get the work done.

    IMO, it's time for a 21st-Century WPA (that's Works Progress Administration from FDR's New Deal - for you youngsters) offering hope to the chronically under-employed and resulting in new and improved schools, bridges, water plants, sewage treatment facilities, etc., etc.

    "In order to be respected, authority has got to be respectable." Tom Robbins

    by va dare on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:14:48 AM PST

    •  somehow I am not surprised (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Margot, tryptamine, va dare

      I still remember the terrific documentary years ago about the mine strike in Harlan.  I also had friends who went down over Xmas break freshman year of college to try to help impoverished families and tutor the children of miners in Harlan.

      Thanks for posting.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:27:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Harlan County USA by Barbara Kopple... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, Margot, tryptamine

        I'm guessing that's the one you mean. The Brookside Strike against Duke Power... when I show this film to young college students - even those native to Harlan Co. - they are stunned to see their neighbors and even relatives portrayed as acting aggressively and proactively. The second sign from the left in the photo below always gets an anxious giggle or two since so many of their parents turned to 'scabbing' rather than starve...

        "In order to be respected, authority has got to be respectable." Tom Robbins

        by va dare on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:42:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  yep sorry i remember strike wrong (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tryptamine, va dare

          I remember a murder actually being captured on film, or at least someone firing a gun, but he was either never prosecuted or not convicted

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:45:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, that's a true story ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            teacherken, Margot

            It was a 'manager'who shot a striker. The men were 'enjoined' from taking part in picket lines and so the 'Bookside Women' group formed to take their places (true daughters of Mother Jones, they took 'switches' and brooms to the picket line). You didn't remember it 'wrong' ...

            "In order to be respected, authority has got to be respectable." Tom Robbins

            by va dare on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 07:06:15 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Now, that's a great idea! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      va dare

      Of course, it would require a new faith in liberalism--and the conservatives' heads would explode. . . .  But we really, really need it.

      Stop global warming--or nothing else we do will matter.

      by Leaves on the Current on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 07:08:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  wow (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Margot, tryptamine, 4jkb4ia

    I should be shocked but I'm not.

    The mold certainly explains middleschool. I was always sick.

    I also remember in middle school, our building was the older building on the "not as wealthy" side of the township, that we never could do science experiements because the gas lines for the bunsen burners leaked when you turned them on. The high school is a reasonably modern building, but it's the only high school in Pennsylvania's most densely populated township, so it's horribly overcrowded and you can only build up unless you eliminate some tax base i e eminent domain.

  •  New Jersey in property tax revolt as we write (6+ / 0-)

    Schools are funded by local taxes and the property owners in south Jersey are up in arms demanding either remediation in Trenton or a state-wide convention to lower the damn rate. There is NO sentiment for retrofitting aging public schools where I live, but a thriving business in Christian schools or other privates.  I substitute teach (if you can call it that)in aged properties where all of the above apply and sullen teens from our inner city polish their purple nails or mock-fight during class as the spirit moves them.  

    I've read Kozol (and others) for years as well, so no news here.  What are the suggestions for moving public school funding away from local property taxes?  Now that would be news.

  •  I was part of a parent group that forced (6+ / 0-)

    the school board and county politicians to build a new elementary school for our neighborhood children. When I read the title of your diary teacherken I thought immediately of the old school conditions.

    We ended up getting a lawyer after 2 years of writing letters, making phone calls, and pressuring them at every meeting to find funding for a new building. Funny, after the lawyer stepped in, how quickly the money was 'found'.

  •  public education scares the shit... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Cannabis, laborish

    ...out of the Power Elite.  The nerve of all these proletarians with education demanding to have a say in how their lives are run; learning to think critically and take meaningful action to better their lives.

    The destruction of the American system of universal, equally acdcessible public education has been pervasive and witting.  They are doing it on purpose, and have been since Ronnie Raygun took power.

    It is a conspiracy on the part of the wealthy to help them keep their grossly unfair huge portion of the pie and screw the rest of us.

    Just as the suppression of women and unlicensed sex is the true agenda of the anti-abortionists, so is the destruction of public education the agenda of the Corporate Masters when they try to privatise public education

    -8.0, -7.03 don't always believe what you think...

    by claude on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:37:48 AM PST

    •  Hate To Break It To You (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling

      But the creation of the public school system in this country around the turn of the 20th century was by and large an effort of "the Corporate Masters," such as industrialists like Ford and Carnegie. Much of the point of public education in the US is to mold obedient workers for corporate America. Much of the framework is an adaptation of methedologies first developed in Prussia to serve the development of the modern German nation-state.

      Just so you know.

      •  also (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling

        to get them off the streets because they were mugging the upper classes.

      •  that may well have been the case then, but (0+ / 0-)

        hasn't been for at least a generation, with the exception of job training and techs schools sufficient to get an able workforce.

        True education, leading to developing critical thinking skills, however, what we once called "liberal arts", becomes harder and harder for the unprivileged to attain.

        -8.0, -7.03 don't always believe what you think...

        by claude on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:52:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's not just public schools. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, linnen

    I'm sure Republicans' solution would be to try to privatize everything even more, but the private college I go to is a good example on why that wouldn't work.  There are actually conditions like those described above at this school: moldy buildings, leaking roofs, old equipment that should have been replaced long ago.  But rather than really fixing this stuff, they seem to be more interested in building a fancy new administrators building and really really expensive apartments on campus.  (They were threatening to get rid of one of the dorms but luckily a lot of students fought that idea.)

    Conditions at my school are nowhere near as bad as some of the public schools you describe, but I think it's a good example to show that privatization won't necessarily automatically make a school better.

  •  our values are showing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Margot, DSPS owl

    Ken:

    I speak to audiences of teachers/librarians/educators fairly frequently, and one of the things I usually talk about is the great distance between the way this country talks about children ("Our greatest natural resource!" we say, pounding our chests) and the way we actually treat them. I often cite examples from Jonathon Kozol's chilling SAVAGE INEQUALITIES. The sad thing is, that book is over 15 years old now, and we don't seem to have made any progress.

    Our national hypocrisy regarding children is stunning.

    I'll certainly be citing this report in future presentations. Many thanks for directing it to our attention.

  •  Funny how this works (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geotpf, middleagedhousewife

    According the brilliant(sic) reflubs:

    1. Drown gov't in the bathtub
    1. Invade and nation-build Iraq
    1. Privatize everything
    1. Restore the monarchy

    Public education? Privatize it (school vouchers). There shall be no regulation. Whatever remains is a feeder system for the military.

  •  Maybe we should think about (0+ / 0-)

    taking the rebuilding monies and establishing an open curriculum such as Parkway Project did in the 60's in Philadelphia when Kevin Bacon attended it.

    •  I had a friend who taught at Parkway (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SuburbanBlue, elie

      and while it had its good points, I would no more want to universalize it than I would universalize KIPP.   That is a key point we need to grasp - we need to remember that we have students with diverse learning styles, we have students with different educational needs and preferences, and somehow what we do in public schools needs to account for this.  We do not need the uniformity of the military (which btw is really not all that uniform!).

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 07:30:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Incredibly informative and eye opening n/t (0+ / 0-)

    My lifelong next door neighbor would give his life to save mine, and yet can't stand the taste of me being a Democrat. Thanks Bush.

    by niteskolar on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 07:26:10 AM PST

  •  Another symptom of conservative infection (6+ / 0-)

    It's not just schools, shocking though their disintegration is; it's our entire public infrastructure.

    Every year a major engineeers' association issues an urgent report on how our transportation infrastructure--our bridges and roads--is dangerously in need of repair and upgrading.

    No one listens.

    Every year, other public facilities--including perhaps most famously our national parks--get a little more seedy, a little more dangerous to use.

    No one listens.

    And now, this report on one of the most fragile and important communities of all: our schools.

    Why don't we do something about this?  What are we waiting for--a school roof collapse that kills kids and teachers?  A bridge collapse that kills scores of people in cars?

    Sorry to flog the obvious, but I think it's because of the conservative infection: addressing these problems would require the expenditure of significant public funds, and the conservative infection of American public life means that's anathema (unless it's for "security" or war).

    It may take a real tragedy to bring us to our senses, to get us to stop nickel-and-diming our human and environmental commons.  This report hints at the kind of health and welfare disaster that we may be facing if we don't rethink our priorities as a nation and as a democracy and stop making necessary public expenditures, and the taxes required to support them, a bunch of dirty words.

    Stop global warming--or nothing else we do will matter.

    by Leaves on the Current on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 07:29:25 AM PST

  •  Organic Food In The Cafeteria... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    I work at an organic bakery and will do my best to provide school cafeterias with healthier foods so the children can be healthy and focus on their work. It is a small step, but I think it is a step in the right direction.

  •  I've recommended (0+ / 0-)

    ...and while I'm a little late to the party I'll suggest you fix the typo in your title: it's "mouse droppings" and not "mice droppings."

    It's such a good diary it deserves to be perfect for posterity.

    Say hello to my little subpoena!

    by The Termite on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 07:40:28 AM PST

  •  fuzzy details... (0+ / 0-)

    How could there be a screensaver on when the power went out?

    •  different circuits (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DSPS owl

      I just happened to have the computer plugged in to the one outlet that was on the same circuit as the emergency lights.

      Only it didn't give much light.   It was a little man whose eyes would light up with a small noise as he went from place to place on the screen.  It was actually an hilarious situation for the students.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 07:54:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ken - Rec'd, and soon to be shared/propagated. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, laborish

    Thanks for this.  

    Never, never brave me, nor my fury tempt:
      Downy wings, but wroth they beat;
    Tempest even in reason's seat.

    by GreyHawk on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 07:49:13 AM PST

  •  Conplaints about Property Tax rise is the concern (4+ / 0-)

    reported over and over in the Indianapolis media, as the building maintainence needs of the inner city schools are posted.  Dr. White, the new School Superintendent, has proposed a campaign to upgrade city schools and is critized at every turn by the Repugs. Conservatives always get their voice heard, but the children and teachers are ignored.  

    I've walked through IPS schools that are valiently attempting to maintain an safe environment in 100 year old buildings. I volunteered before school started to deliver textbooks to classrooms in a three story, 96 year old school with no air conditioning. No State Legislator would work under such circumstances. In a job situation like this, few of us could be productive.  Even modern factories have better working conditions. But, of course, no media reports this side of the picture.  

    In Indiana, state-wide testing is required to be administered during the first 30 days of the school year, so children are pressured to do their bestwork in the midst of this summer heat.

    But tax payer dolllars are being spent, freely, to build the COLTS the finest stadium money can buy.

    Insanity!!!  

  •  On the money! (3+ / 0-)

    In my kid's high school, the physics room reeks  badly of mildew, and this is in a relatively affluent suburb. One of the elementary school buildings in our county is over 100 years old. Pretty much all the older buildings are beat, and the teachers are grossly underpaid. I know and interact with the school board members -- they do the best they can given the miserly budget they get from the county and the state.

    What we could have done with the 100's of billions squandered in Iraq! I want my children to grow up to be productive, not cannon fodder for some megalomaniac imperialist. We cannot get rid of these people fast enough.

  •  another side of this problem (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Geotpf, AuntieM

    My school district recently tried to plan a new school building on the site of an old neighborhood school a few blocks from my house, to replace the Depression-era school there and another neighborhood school from the same era.  It was a good idea, because the buildings are well past their prime and the facilities no longer reflect the neighborhood population trends.  

    The RESIDENTS fought against this tooth and nail, because they didn't want to lose their beloved old building that generations went to school in, and they didn't see the point of spending millions on a new building rather than renovating the old ones.  The worst part was the hysterics over part of the initial plan... the proposals for a new school site included a much-loved WWII era Victory Garden.  This site was knocked off the list immediately, but that didn't stop "activists" from parading through to protest a site that was no longer on the list!  Grrr.

    They hate us for our freedoms. So if we stop being free, they stop hating us? Is THAT the plan?

    by Leggy Starlitz on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:16:47 AM PST

    •  Tear down the house (0+ / 0-)

      Over the years my school district would close a school then sell the land and building. Several were bought by wingnut (no dollars and no sense)* churchs and later became neighborhood eyesores so the district bought back at least one of the buildings and tore it down. With that in mind the school board refused to answer the prayers of another small wingnut group when they offered to purchase a closed school. The board did the right thing, they tore it down and made a city park.
      The "beloved old building group" were asked about taxes being use to maintain an out-of-date empty building. They quitely went away.

      I smile every time a drive by that little park.:>)

      *intended spelling

      Dammit when god screws-up you are allowed to take his name in vain.

      by AuntieM on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 09:13:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The whole US infrastructure is crumbling (5+ / 0-)

    Great diary, TK, but I don't have time to read all the comments right now. I will go back and catch them later, so I apologize if someone has already said this -- or some version of it: The entire US infrastructure, including public buildings, bridges, roads, and other public areas, is in sad need of repair and rebuilding.

    All those billions of dollars spent on rebuilding Iraq would have been better spent here at home. We need the next president of the USA to change the Department of Homeland Security into a WPA (Works Progress Administration) for the 21st century. He or she needs to change the agency name, modify its mission, fire all the cronies, and hire hundreds of thousands of unemployed and underemployed Americans AT A LIVING WAGE to rebuild this aging country while we still can!

  •  so, it's not just here (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, AmericanRiverCanyon

    We cannot merely take over warehouses and storefronts and the like and expect that we can convert these into satisfactory environments for learning.

    Ah, I thought this particular insanity only affected my county's school board.

    The board bought two shuttered K-Mart stores with the idea of turning them into high schools.  I remember one of the facilities people on teevee practically jiggling with delight at how cheap and flexible the space would be.  Well, aside from the fact that most commercial buildings around here are cheapjack tilt-up steel construction which are horribly energy-wasteful, and don't meet hurricane codes, the remodeling costs ended up being double the estimates.  There's also the idiocy of taking two large, prime commercial parcels permanently off the tax roll.

    Just out my office window is the new school board building.  They bought an abandoned "outlet mall," and are demonstrating the classical definition of insanity by trodding the path of the two K-Mart schools.  It's also grotesquely oversized for the size of the board staff, so unless large sections are going to be walled off, every school board flunkie is probably going to have five or six times the space of the typical student.

    Even the built-to-order schools have all the architectural charm of a livestock shed.  In order to save dough, the superintendant has decided to inflict this design on all future junior high students.

    •  Funny You Say That (3+ / 0-)

      A comment related to me, made by a school board member in a neighboring district: "We'd put 'em in chicken coops with windows if we could." At least he mentioned the windows.

    •  RE Energy Wasteful ... (0+ / 0-)

      Schools -- at all levels and in most US communities -- are frequently among the least energy efficient structures in a community.

      Think about

      • all the single-pane glass windows ... that are frequently open in many rooms in winter as the heating is imbalance.  
      • The asphalt rooftops that eat up the heat brought down into the single/two-floor structure ...

      Etc ...

      On cost-effective terms, the United States could do portions of the required infrastructure improvements.  Making the buildings more energy efficient would help in making them more comfortable.  Thinking about the price of running (owning) the buildings would foster building and renovating them better.

      Energy is typically the #2 cost for school systems, I believe, after salaries (sometimes #3 after infrastructure/equipment purposes).  

      In Energize America 2020, we included a federal program for assisting local communities do bonds for energy efficiency and renewable energy -- school buildings should be a prime target.

      Not only for the dollar savings, not only for the reduced pollution, but also for the eductional value of showing tomorrow's leaders the importance of thinking about energy implications in our lives.

      The Energy Conversation: Learn - Connect - Share - Participate: For a new dialogue on Energy issues.

      by A Siegel on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 01:18:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Right on (4+ / 0-)

    Students are often far more perceptive than adults realize.   They see the conditions in which they attend school and quickly draw the conclusion that their learning is really not important, otherwise they would not be subjected to such indignities.

    I'm so glad to hear you say this teacherken.  I've been saying it for years too.  My elementary school was half trailers.  My junior high school was affectionately dubbed "the pink prison" by the students.  My high school was completely run down and dirty.  Meanwhile my wife went to a private school set in a converted historical estate with absolutely gorgeous grounds and landscaping.  It was used to film TV shows and movies in.

    Kids are much less likely to take pride in their education in these conditions.  They can tell that we, as a society, don't really care whether they succeed or not.

    It's not just the facilities either.  In my school career I could tell that the teachers knew that they were underpaid, and it greatly effected the pride that teachers had in their work and the general atmosphere of the school.  We also need to pay our teachers a wage that acknowledges their professionalism and shows that we respect and value the truly important work that they do as well.

    Life is like love in autumn

    by kenjib on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:19:24 AM PST

  •  ACLU (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RogueStage

    There was a case a couple of years ago where the ACLU sued a school district for not providing a proper environment to learn in - due to mouse droppings, etc. - and won. I believe the school was in California.

    •  it would be nice if you could provide a cite (0+ / 0-)

      so that we could make info available for everyone

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:23:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  cite (0+ / 0-)

        Sorry, I knew I should do that. I'm getting ready for work, but when I get there and have a little time later, I will see what I can find. Please stop back by, teacherken.

      •  Links (5+ / 0-)

        Here is one, teacherken. Sounds like the one I'm thinking of.

        ACLU Statements

        Statement of Catherine E. Lhamon
        Staff Attorney, ACLU of Southern California
        August 13, 2004

        The settlement announced today marks the first—and critical—step toward real reform of California’s public schools. Students who could not, before now, expect educational opportunity in their schools will now feel welcomed in school, with books, desks, decent school facilities, and teachers who are supported. Whereas the students who filed this case routinely saw rats in their classrooms, struggled to learn while sharing books in class, and languished in class after class that lacked teachers assigned to them, the students who go to school after this settlement will enjoy schools that are prepared for the business of educating students.

        Statement of Eliezer ("Eli") Williams
        Named Plaintiff in Williams v. California
        August 13, 2004 My name is Eli Williams. I am sixteen years old and next year I will be a senior at Balboa High School in San Francisco.

        When I became involved in this case I was twelve years old and in the seventh grade at Luther Burbank Middle School. I got involved because things were really terrible at my school and I wanted to do something about it. Our bathrooms were dirty, and flooded, ceiling tiles would fall from the ceiling in the gym and the railings around the playground were rusty and broken. Our classrooms were dirty, cold,and infested with mice. These conditions made us feel unsafe at school and made it hard to concentrate in class.

      •  Another cite (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, RogueStage

        Landmark Suit Takes New
        Approach to Education Reform

        On May 17th, the 46th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, civil rights groups and attorneys in California filed the most comprehensive lawsuit concerning the bare minimums required for education ever to be brought against a state. The suit was filed jointly by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Northern California and San Diego; Morrison & Foerster; Public Advocates, Inc.; Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Newman, Aaronson, Vanaman; Center for Law in the Public Interest; Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Karl Mannheim; Allan Ides, and Peter Edelman.

        The lawsuit, Williams v. State of California, extends the arc of education-related civil rights litigation by holding the State of California accountable for failing to maintain minimal standards in many of the stateâs schools, especially those located in communities of color, economically struggling communities and immigrant communities.
        ...

        Degraded, unhealthful facilities and conditions further impair student learning throughout California. Children must contend with broken or nonexistent air conditioning or heating systems; toilets that don't work; water fountains that donât work; broken windows, walls, and ceilings; infestations of rats, mice, and cockroaches; and leaky roofs and mold.

      •  One more (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Geotpf, RogueStage

        Once I saw Morrison and Foerster was involved I checked their site and found this:

        On September 9, 2005, The State Bar of California awarded the team that worked on the Williams v. State of California case the 2005 President's Pro Bono Service Award.  The award recognizes California attorneys who have provided or enabled the direct provision of legal services to poor persons or to organizations whose primary purpose is to provide legal services to the poor, free-of-charge, without expectation of compensation from the client. Williams challenged fundamental inequities in the public education system, which have resulted in more than one million students enduring substandard facilities and less qualified teachers. The settlement will direct nearly $1 billion to these issues, and dramatically improve the systems that hold officials accountable for delivering the basic elements of a quality education to all public school students in California.

        Okay, I better get to work.

  •  Still number 1! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, esquimaux, laborish

    Moldy broke schools! U-S-A!

    Show me one moldy broke school in Sweden, then flame me. Just one.

    Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

    by kwestone on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:23:31 AM PST

  •  Windows that open... (3+ / 0-)

    Ohio is in the midst of a massive public school rebuilding effort, funded in part by our share of the "Tobacco Settlement Money", among other sources. In many communities, proposals are being made to tear down every single building in their district, to be replaced by fewer, but more modern schools. In effect, the school consolidations proposed are undoing years of efforts to maintain local community schools. It's also moving the new schools from the center of towns and neighborhoods to the outskirts- contributing to sprawl development in order to comply with modern (land-hungry) standards for school layout and site design.

    After only a couple of years with new buildings popping up all over the state, what seemed like a really good thing is already showing some problems. For instance, the costs of operating new school buildings is a real shocker for poor districts that are used to dealing with the predictable costs of maintaining historic school buildings. Their utility costs for the new buildings have gone up exponentially, which is not something that state and federal funds can be used to pay for. Ohio's school funding formula has already been found to violate the state constitution. However, that's yet another issue that the Republican statehouse chose not to address with meaningful legislation over the last ten years.

    We're quietly waiting for the unique mechanical systems on the new buildings to start failing and for all these local BOE folks to realize that their janitor and local contractors won't be able to tinker with these buildings like their old ones. So many things in the new buildings (designed to state standards) are proprietary or sealed sytems- either you contract with the manufacturer to do the work or you buy replacments. And again- state and federal funds are too precious to be allowed for maintenance, so the circle will start all over again for these buildings. But for the new buildings, that circle will be much accelerated- because these aren't the brick temples to learning that we've all gotten used to.

    Older school buildings were real workhorses. They were designed in ways that allowed them to be more responsive to changes in temperature, with things like windows that worked and had shades, multi-floor air movement through stairwells, radiant/steam heat without ducts to get dirty. They also were overbuilt- basically designed to last until somebody knocked them down, with minimal maintenance.  Even with no maintenance, many of them are still standing. That's why these buildings are so often reused for housing projects. What amounts to a facelift of a rehabilitation gets you a building with an active lifespan of another 50 years. If the new buildings last 20 years without needing a gut rehab, I will be amazed.

    "Our attitude was- the revolution can't start until we find our hair gel." Joe Strummer

    by histopresto on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:27:36 AM PST

  •  Random anecdote (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Geotpf

    I had friends who lived in a very wealthy area of LA in one of the most coveted school districts. Still, they were considering a private school. The stay-at-home-mom had researched and staked out a school, but in order to finish the application process, the school required that the father (who had been travelling and working very long hours) visit as well.

    He came back, astounded.

    "Sarah," he said, "she has to go to that school!"

    Sarah of course liked the school but was curious what had provoked such a strong positive reaction.

    "The bathrooms!" he said. "They're so CLEAN!"

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:29:57 AM PST

  •  Teacher connected life (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    Teachers in my family. My father taught eight grades in a one room school in late 1920s. His brother, a teacher/farmer taught HS 30+ years. Several Aunts taught elementary. Three cousins teach at four year colleges. Sister-in-law 30+ years elementary. Sister and brother-in-law taught HS. Brother head of maintenance for local school district. My wife 40 years elementary and self 4+ years VoTech at community college and (20+ years in construction).
    This does NOT make me an expert on teaching or building maintenance just an indication of my back ground. For the most part our local school district and community college have kept their buildings in good repair. The tax base is just large enough to fund the district and college at an exceptable level. Also school bond votes for new buildings have passed when needed. With that said I still think we are on the edge and school funding will suffer as the population ages and property taxes become a larger burden on retirement income. Local business, industry, and population are all stagnant so spendable income and the local economy could sufer in the near furture.
    By doing repairs as needed our faculities are in average or above average condition. That can't be said of many of the smaller districts in this part of the state. Their tax base does not cover expenses so building maintenance is added to future budgets that are also underfunded.
    I would like to see the money we waste on war used in education. Books not bombs!

    Dammit when god screws-up you are allowed to take his name in vain.

    by AuntieM on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:33:48 AM PST

  •  There are so many problems with education (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    in this country.  Not only are buildings confining, filled with florescent lighting, and in need of repair, the students are treated like criminals and taught some bizarre form of knowledge that consists of memorizing to pass standardized tests.  You can even see how it's affected people who are in college now.  You would be surprised at the number of people I go to school with who have money but no knowledge.  They come to college, take the lowest level math then complain about writing papers longer than 2 pages.  The education is a side note that gets in the way of earning the degree everyone so desperately needs to even make a low middle class salary now a days.  Education and intelligence used to be valued, now it's all skewed to keep our kids "safe" and pass useless tests.  We need a total overhaul of the way we educate people in this country.  Obviously, it's not working the way we're doing it now.  I hope all the changes you talk about get done and I hope that people start to really care what their children are actually learning.

    The truth hurts. Fortunately for America... I'm a masochist. - Stephen Colbert

    by Razzygirl thinks on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:37:56 AM PST

  •  DoDDS schools? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, OpherGopher

    Does anyone else here have experience with Department of Defense Dependents Schools?  In other words, those of us who are kids of military families.

    I grew up going to almost exclusively DoDDS schools and in my experience they were wonderful.  Clean, big, lots of resources, one school even had two pools--one indoor and one outdoor.  

    My only bad experience was when the A/C went out in May in my math room, which was an interior room with no windows.  I mentioned it to my dad, casually over dinner, telling him that the A/C had been out for several days and our complaints had fallen on deaf ears.  Well my dad was horrified, made a couple of calls and it was all fixed by 7am.  I'm grateful he knew the importance that a comfortable room had on my education.

  •  Bring back busing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lemming22

    A teacher friend of mine told me back in the 70's "Busing is a drag, but they should do it anyway so middle-class parents get to see the kind of school conditions poor kids have to deal with."

    I gather that things have gotten worse since then.

    In a more enlightened world, there's a vast opportunity here: recall how government (specifically DoD) spending jump-started the whole microchip industry.

    Similarly, a campaign to rebuild our school infrastructure could jump-start a "green building" industry, while saving huge amounts of energy and teaching our kids about sustainable living.

    News is what they don't want you to know. Everything else is publicity. --Bill Moyers

    by RobLewis on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 08:46:53 AM PST

  •  Profound effects (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, Gorette, SuburbanBlue

    Environment produces profound effects on behavior, as discussed in the book "Tipping Point".  For example, the book details, a person that lives in a safe, affluent neighborhood will act differently than the same person in a seedy, drug-infested neighborhood.

    The same must be true for schools, too.  If students walk up to a school and perceive it to be a shithole, they will behave as if it is a shithole.  they will take, from the very fact that the school is a shithole, the strong lesson that no one cares what they do or if they succeed, and they will behave accordingly.

    Sending a kid to a shithole of a school is the equivalent of telling them to fail.  Sending them to a school that is clean and structurally sound sends the message that the community wants that kid to do well.  And the kid will behave accordingly.

  •  When I saw this, I wondered (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    goodasgold

    "why is he posting a recipe in the title?"

    A recipe for disaster is what it is.  Good diary.

    My apologies to students who took my U.S. Government class in the 90s: evidently the Constitution doesn't limit Presidential power after all. Who knew?

    by Major Danby on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 09:23:13 AM PST

  •  In my area of Los Angeles, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gorette

    we have at least 4 newly built schools.  These new schools have allowed us to go back to the traditional school calendar, instead of a year-round schedule.  The year-round schedule was difficut for many families, of which I can personally attest.  We went 4 years with no family vacation because my children were on a different calendar.   I found that the family bond is weakened without that special of playing together for an extended period of time.  Also, many families had to contend with after school-care for the entire year.

    Over the years, California passed a series of bonds to fund school construction, general upkeep, earthquake retrofitting and air conditioning.   Still, the money is not enough and there is much work to be done.

    I recently heard on PBS that the government was considering spending millions to upgrade nuclear weapons, even though the Lawrence Livermore Lab concluded the weapons were not degraded as originally assumed.  I thought at the time how fine it would be to spend that money instead on something that would provide a return, such as education.  I glad that there are those with a louder voice opining the same.

  •  Leaving children behind by keeping them in (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, RogueStage

    crumbling unhealthy school buildings is one of the ways this country has fallen behind. Corporatism, the greed of the wealthy, their mil/industrial set-up, the lack of real values (poverty, economic mobility, class) in the national discussion--all these enter into the mess that education is in.

    People don't even think about the dropout problem which is huge, but it will catch up with us in some way. If I were a teenager, disaffected, and in a horrid beat-up school, it would be much easier to leave than a school that was cheerful, well-maintained, comforting, a nice place to be. Why can't schools be inviting? It's not as if that could not be, is it?

    Learning is exciting, but when things are grimy and moldy, how can you concentrate or care?

    We will never eliminate poverty in America unless we do it comprehensively and nationally....no more incrementalism. - John Edwards

    by Gorette on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 09:38:59 AM PST

  •  Tremendous diary, Teacher KEN (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RogueStage, AmericanRiverCanyon

    Where did you get your stats on asthma?  
    This particularily got my attention...

    the death rate for asthma among children 5-14 doubled from 1980 to 1988, with African-American children 4 to 6 times more likely to die from asthma related problems.

    Do you have stats after 1988?

    2001 is when I developed serious allergies to mold and latex paint. I had no allegies I knew of before then,  and good health.   After being diagnosised with pnuemonia twice in 18 months, my doctor sent me to an allergist. I tested sensitive to 9 of the 14 species of mold in the standard scratch panel. Four of those species I had a very serious reaction to.

    I theorize my paint sensitivity maybe from an additive that prevents mold growth on the paint. Mycotoxins (toxins from mold), started to be seriously used in the chemical industry in the mid- 90's for mildewcides, herbicides, and pesticides.   Sometimes these are marketed under the moniker "natural" because the chemicals are made by living things..

    One species of mold "fusarium" (a kind of which I get very sick from)was genetically engineered to produce 100 times the natural amount of a particular protein that causes broadleaf plants to die.  This mold was released against cocaine plants in South America as part of the war on drugs  , because plants had developed a resistance to Roundup.

    Mold spore travels easily on the wind.

    During the same time period that I "tipped over",  I heard many similar stories.
    Including two deaths.  My sister's best friend from high school days died at age 47 of "pneumonia"  in the hospital, despite an antibiotic IV (Antibotics would not work for mold induced asthma possibly misdiagnosised as pneumonia); and a friend whose friend had died of an asthma attack, also a woman just entering middle age.  

    "Let us not be conservative with compassion. Be generous with compassion."

    by ilyana on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 10:06:18 AM PST

  •  Its (0+ / 0-)

    It is ALL once again due to misguided priorities and perspectives. For some reason our society looks at maintainanece workers and just thinks, "poor stupid janitor". What a mistake. If we hired professionals and paid them well, they would actually MAINTAIN our buildings. INSTEAD, we continue to try to save a penny today, yet then act surprised when we have to spend fistfull of dollars later.

    I have seen this in every aspect of society, I see crumbling buildings that could of been saved and fixed well before they got this way with proper maintainence.  Europe has BUILDINGS OVER 1000 years old, we here in "throw away" america have very few old buildings because we don't take care of shit.

    Maintainence should be a highly skilled and paid job, yet in america, it is a crap low paying job requiring very little skills and thus we get what we pay for.

    mr republican, is that a flag in your pocket or are you just glad to see my son?

    by pissedpatriot on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 10:40:35 AM PST

  •  Sylvien wherever you are (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sylvien

    I tried to recommend your comment but got a "FAILED" sign. First time that's ever happened.

    War is not an adventure. It is a disease. It is like typhus. - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

    by Margot on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 10:53:31 AM PST

  •  So we can borrow billions from China to (0+ / 0-)

    occupy Iraq, but we can't prevent mushrooms from growing in our schools?

    CAGW reports that

    Total pork identified by CAGW since 1991 adds up to $241 billion.

    Quoted in this diary:  $10 billion a year for 12 years fixes every school in disrepair.  That's half of the pork for the last 15 years.

    CAGW says they've found $29 billion in pork from 2006 alone (same link).  That's a quarter of what we need to fix these schools.

    Our priorities are so screwed up.  

  •  The difference in students between schools... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sylvien, davefromqueens

    ...is easily correlated with how well-kept the schools are.

    Background: I spent a couple of months on a local Shakespeare for schools tour in NYC; before that I'd done two other regional Shakespeare tours that often played high schools.

    The differences are astounding. One day we'd be in a swanky private school with new wood flooring, school uniforms, teachers wearing ties, and well-behaved children who knew the play as well as we did; the next day we be in a poorly-lit hellhole that we had to enter through metal detectors, with a police officer checking our bags, a cafeteria producing only awful-smelling pizza (the kind we used to joke was made of rubber), teachers who had long since stopped trying to maintain discipline and students who were obviously intelligent but so used to being bored and ignored that they didn't put in any effort.

    It's easy to say that there are other causes, but the students aren't responsible for the state of the school. Why should we punish students in even failing schools by refusing to pay for things as basic as making sure the toilets work?

    Glad to hear you bringing this to light.

    O it is excellent to have a giant's strength: but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant. --Measure for Measure, II.2

    by RogueStage on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 11:11:10 AM PST

  •  There is a plan (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geotpf, davefromqueens

    An uneducated American is a Republican American.

    Christ (oops, Crist) is my governor -- God help us.

    by ThatSinkingFeeling on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 11:21:16 AM PST

  •  The Republican attack point goes (0+ / 0-)
    Every dollar you spend in buildings is less you spend on classroom education.  Our schools are so terribly inefficient We should have a minimum % of education money spent only on the classroom in any given year, completely ignoring facilities costs (not to mention unfunded mandates like special education and NCLB).  And it doesn't help that for every half-full decaying big city district, there's some rural district that only has a few dozen kids in it that's averse to merging with someone bigger, losing control or <gasp> being integrated.
pontificator, Bob Johnson, folkbum, Mark Sumner, katiebird, wozzle, Ed in Montana, MichaelPH, Go Vegetarian, trifecta, Maccabee, coral, Athena, jillian, pb, daria g, EMKennedyLucio, TealVeal, sheba, Barbara, lipris, Margot, timber, TaraIst, alisonk, pHunbalanced, TrueBlueMajority, Powered Grace, ScientistMom in NY, mimi, stumpy, Reino, its simple IF you ignore the complexity, juls, DebtorsPrison, LBK, Robespierrette, Avila, Disillusioned, Emerson, Shockwave, SanJoseLady, jakbeau, Jim W, histopresto, Stein, rhubarb, tryptamine, elfling, sobermom, catchawave, exNYinTX, zeitshabba, memberofthejury, sardonyx, shermanesq, think2004, Hose B, bronte17, VirginiaDem, brillig, DrKate, Shadan7, Susan1138, nyceve, OCD, KMc, sayitaintso, shock, cookiebear, Frederick Clarkson, Dana in MN, javelina, FLPeach, Fe, Bearpaw, edie haskell, matt2525, bewert, navajo, dmsilev, Cedwyn, Alna Dem, Alohaleezy, aitchdee, Janet Strange, SaucyIntruder, Barbara Morrill, Moody Loner, oldjohnbrown, Chicago Lulu, ghostofaflea, mad ramblings of a sane woman, kenjib, TXsharon, Nina, baxxor, PaulVA, texasmom, niteskolar, Black Maned Pensator, PitPat, cat chew, The Termite, renaissance grrrl, applegal, Tillie630, Frankenoid, annetteboardman, Mi Corazon, lcrp, welshvalleymaid, 4jkb4ia, lulu57, bwintx, Exurban Mom, kombiz, WV Democrat, YetiMonk, parryander, Man Eegee, DrReason, eco, Steven D, jcrit, Leaves on the Current, kd texan, solesse413, Mikecan1978, greeseyparrot, TexMex, TexH, Jersey Joe, dvx, sxwarren, rapala, drofx, Fabian, Bluesee, SisTwo, RazzBari, Zorba the Greek, paperpegasus, Brian Patton, LarisaW, judithfreeman, LisaZ, mjd in florida, OpherGopher, irate, Heronymous Cowherd, PBen, greasymadness, PsychoSavannah, offred, clammyc, ontogeny1, terrypinder, Brooke In Seattle, Laurence Lewis, Bouwerie Boy, Sweet Georgia Peach, GUGA, cris0000, EdlinUser, ajr2005, dunderhead, GreyHawk, Gegner, Overseas, quaoar, annefrank, QuickSilver, blue jersey mom, wgard, abbeysbooks, bmaples, lasky57, demmefatale, gkn, rolandzebub, Yamara, AnotherMassachusettsLiberal, Rydra Wrong, cerulean, Cannabis, nakedcomputerguy, wiscmass, Floja Roja, sodalis, Silence is Complicity, desordre remplir, sillia, Cory Bantic, Rogneid, phriendlyjaime, Spathiphyllum, Arsenic, lcork, SoulCatcher, DisNoir36, Prof Dave, pico, JosephAZ, poco, nyarlahotep, BachFan, danmac, Nightprowlkitty, Do Tell, Taunger, Milly Watt, RogueStage, BlueInARedState, emeraldmaiden, DMIer, Gorette, Yellow Canary, Hear Our Voices, kestrel9000, compbear, chacha1847, Ohio 2nd, aphra behn, mystery2me, KDANTEATER, goodasgold, DeweyCounts, NBBooks, zigeunerweisen, Lashe, dskinner, Chairman Bob, DSPS owl, Kite in a Gale, plf515, CTLiberal, bleeding heart, middleagedhousewife, Pilgrim X, Cato come back, a small quiet voice, nolies32fouettes, Roatti, zeke7237, va dare, means are the ends, kurt, Statusquomustgo, Lew2006, imorroy, bstotts, Granny Doc, ciao gatta, kidneystones, Temmoku, illusionmajik, OHdog, sarasson007, FoundingFatherDAR, nhcollegedem, grassrootsbloggerdtcom, Sidof79, Cronesense, Digbyzzz, possum, moodyinsavannah, Wide Awake in NJ, gloriana, Positronicus, laborish, edsbrooklyn, profmom, ilex, DWG, Tenn Wisc Dem, MrMichaelMT, cyncynical, davefromqueens, Pax Amicus, mrbubs, Chris 47N122W, Razzygirl thinks, mrteacher, Grousefinder

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site