Education played a prominent role in last month’s State of the Union address. Among the highlights included the President proposing improvements in education benefits and providing two years of free community college.
But unlike some past Presidential addresses, there was no mention of how we as a nation can improve the places where our children learn.
Rarely a primary focus of State of the Union addresses, school facilities have been spotlighted in the past, often resulting in the initiation of studies and research documenting the deteriorating condition of America’s education infrastructure and the often-obscene amounts of money required to address the issues.
Besides the reports that have arisen as a result of the fleeting national focus, the responsibility to fund the construction and improvement of education facilities has always fallen squarely on state and local governments. As detailed in last month’s issue, many education institutions are making the commitment to fund needed capital improvements, as approximately 200 individual bond elections were approved in November for a total of nearly $22 billion.
However, securing support to fund capital needs is not always the easiest thing for education institutions, as illustrated by a recent example.
The New Paltz School District, NY, is trying to get voters to pass a $52.9 million capital improvement bond in March. What makes it unique is that while voters rejected an identical proposal this past October, the district is posting the initiative on the ballot again without a single revision.
According to the district, the improvements outlined in the bond are essential and that it is an issue of “pay now or pay later. ” Officials believe a lack of community understanding about the proposal led to its initial failure. The hope is that better communication, including providing more details about the desperate need for the project and the deterioration of school buildings, will lead to passage this time around.
Hopefully the success other districts have found in gaining the support of their communities for infrastructure improvements will happen for New Paltz. And as the nation’s education facilities’ needs continue to grow, may all schools and colleges find the support and funding they need to effectively address much-needed capital improvements.