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NEA Issue Explainer

School Modernization

Many public school buildings are so ill-equipped or in such poor condition that they undermine teaching and learning.
teen boy outside school
Published: December 2, 2021
This issue explainer originally appeared on

America spends more on public schools than any part of our infrastructure except roads and bridges. Yet the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the condition of America’s 100,000 public school buildings an overall grade of D+. And no wonder—half our school buildings are half a century old.

Outmoded HVAC systems leave students and educators sweltering when it’s warm and freezing when it’s cold. Roofs leak, rooms flood, pest and vermin infestation is widespread, and asbestos floor tiles make the air toxic.

“The best estimates indicate a minimum of $85 billion annual funding gap for public school facilities across the country.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 provided the means to begin eliminating lead service lines and pipes remaining in schools and child care facilities, and to electrify thousands of school buses to reduce harmful emissions. It also  extended the Secure Rural Schools program.

NEA continues to advocate for federal funding for school modernization. We believe that funding should target high-poverty schools posing health and safety risks to students and staff.

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