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ERIC Number: ED500830
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Apr
Pages: 23
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 16
School Facility Investments in the Washington Metropolitan Areas
Woolley, Mark; Winkler, Mary K.
Urban Institute (NJ1)
The quality of a school building plays a critical role in student academic achievement as well as teacher retention. Yet, the majority of U.S. public schools are in poor physical condition, and nearly one-quarter are overcrowded, pressuring school systems to invest in both improving existing facilities and adding new facilities to accommodate growing student enrollments. Regional population growth mandates new school construction, while the condition of central-city schools and schools serving minority and low-income students creates the greatest need for upgrade and repair. This brief analyzes patterns of investment for public school construction in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area from 1995 to 2004. It considers the geographic distribution of investments, the allocation of resources for new construction versus renovation, changes in spending over time, and differences in investment for schools with differing student income levels and differing racial/ethnic compositions. The most substantial outlays across the region were for new school construction in the burgeoning outlying suburbs, where rapidly growing student enrollment mandated an expansion of school capacity. Spending in the District of Columbia and the suburbs immediately surrounding the District was directed more toward school renovation. School construction investment increased over time throughout the region, with the most dramatic increase occurring within the District, which in 2000 began the widespread renovation of old schools. Both population growth pressures and the need to improve aging schools influenced spending patterns across the Washington metropolitan area. However, local policy priorities and budget constraints also shape decisions about where to invest, helping to explain wide disparities in school construction spending across jurisdictions. From 1995 to 1999, investment in schools where more than 40 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch was below the regional average. However, starting in 2000, spending at schools where more than 75 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch increased sharply, largely reflecting increased expenditures within the District of Columbia. Construction was also below average for schools attended primarily by minority students (less than 15 percent white) and for schools where African-Americans are the dominant minority group, though these schools also saw small increases in investment over time. Schools with racially and ethnically diverse or a majority white student population garnered the greatest school construction resources. Unfortunately, data are not available to directly assess the extent to which school construction investments addressed problems of poor facility quality. However, the disparities in construction spending across the region are consistent with national studies showing that during the 1990s, schools serving high proportions of low-income and minority students were more likely to have inadequate facilities. Furthermore, despite increased spending in the District of Columbia, as recently as 2002 more than 40 percent of teachers in the D.C. public school system rated their school facilities as educationally inadequate. (Contains 21 endnotes, 1 map, and 9 figures.)
Urban Institute. 2100 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 202-261-5687; Fax: 202-467-5775; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Urban Inst., Washington, DC.
Identifiers - Location: District of Columbia