trezevant high memphis

Report says Tennessee needs $9 billion in K-12 infrastructure upgrades over 5 years

Jan. 30, 2023
The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations says about $5.4 billion is needed for renovations and technology upgrades, and nearly $3.6 billion is needed for additions and new facilities.

Tennessee needs to invest more than $9 billion in its K-12 education infrastructure over five years, a state report says.

Chalkbeat Tennessee reports that about $5.4 billion is needed for renovations and technology improvements, and nearly $3.6 billion is needed to build additions and new schools, according to the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.

To keep on track, local officials reported that they would need to build 70 more schools across Tennessee, at an average estimated cost of $42 million each. That amount can vary widely, however, depending on the school’s size, location, and purpose.

In Tennessee, cities and counties pay for most of their school facility needs with property and sales tax revenues. But some state lawmakers are looking for ways to ease that burden.

Last year, one legislative proposal would have directed tax revenues from Tennessee’s new sports betting industry toward local school facility costs. But the measure never made it out of committee.

Many local officials would like a new state revenue stream to help them repair or replace aging schools.

A new building to replace Trezevant High School in Memphis was put on hold last year because of limited funding. The school has one of the highest deferred maintenance bills of any public school in the Memphis-Shelby County district.

The inventory compiled by the state commission serves as a yearly reminder of Tennessee’s billions of dollars in unmet capital construction. The latest needs list tallied $63 billion in all, with education ranking second, behind transportation and just ahead of health and safety infrastructure.

In the education category, college campuses saw a decrease in their infrastructure needs after several years of new investments, but K-12 public schools saw their needs increase.

In August, the collapse of a school library ceiling at Cummings K-8 Optional School in Memphis underscored the problem of aging facilities and deferred maintenance in school facilities.

No students were in the library at the time, but a school librarian and two other staff members were injured. Students will finish out this school year at a neighboring school pending repairs and the outcome of a structural review.

According to the state’s latest breakdown of local needs, Memphis-Shelby County Schools needs to address school infrastructure projects totaling more than $464 million, at a cost of $3,450 per student, by mid-2026.

But funding is a challenge. Last summer, Shelby County commissioners granted only half of the Memphis district’s $55 million request for capital improvements.

Sponsored Recommendations