BEST Research Reveals Spending on U.S. School Construction

Nov. 7, 2006
Growth and spending has been unprecedented, but less affluent districts saw smaller investment

Not since 1995, when the General Accountability Office released its School Facilities: Condition of America’s Schools report, has a comprehensive assessment of school construction activity in the United States been completed. A recent research effort by Building Educational Success Together (BEST), an initiative launched by the Washington, D.C.-based 21st Century School Fund, finally updates information that is outdated by more than a decade. The newly released report, GROWTH and DISPARITY: A Decade of U.S. Public School Condition, offers information on the condition of America’s public schools, as well as the motivation for and rate of new construction and modernization activity. Also revealed is information about school construction disparity from 1995-2004.

“This report has good news and troubling news. It reveals what is known in many local communities: school construction and building improvements have been booming,” says Mary W. Filardo, executive director at the 21st Century School Fund, in the report’s foreward. “But, our analysis also affirms our worst suspicions: Despite record spending on school construction, low-income and minority students, who already experience disadvantages, have had far less investment in their school facilities than their more affluent, white counterparts and the conditions for these students continues to be substandard.”

The following are a few highlights from the report’s executive summary:

  • Public school districts spent more than $304 billion (2005 dollars) in bricks-and-mortar “hard costs” for public school construction contracts, according to data collected by McGraw-Hill Construction.
  • Over this decade, public school districts built more than 12,000 new schools and managed more than 130,000 renovation and other improvement projects to address health, safety, technology, access for students with disabilities, educational enhancement, and other needs.
  • The lowest investment ($4,140 per student) was made in the poorest communities, while the highest investment ($11,500 per student) was made in high-income communities.
  • School districts with predominately minority student enrollment invested the least ($5,172 per student), while school districts with predominately white student enrollment spent the most ($7,102 per student).

To download a complete copy of GROWTH and DISPARITY: A Decade of U.S. Public School Construction, visit (

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