School Construction Stimulus


I got a request in a thread a few days ago asking if I was still dating Sara Mead. Indeed I am. But even if I wasn’t, I would still recommend her piece on why school construction should be part of a recovery package:

New investments in school construction and modernization are a natural fit for the stimulus package. Unlike education programs, which need ongoing funding in order to keep operating, a two-year investment in school construction would produce thousands of school buildings that could be used for decades to come, with no need for continued federal funding. Similarly, investments in “greening” existing school facilities to reduce their energy consumption will produce substantial, ongoing savings that school districts can use to fund pre-k, increased teacher compensation, and other educational programs.

Many states and school districts have construction projects that were already in the works but have been put on hold due to the economic downturn. Federal school construction aid would allow work to resume on those projects, moving cash into the economy quickly. School construction would also create new jobs for construction workers hard-hit by the housing downturn. Because the construction sector is slow right now, schools and districts are likely to secure better deals on projects now than they would if they waited until the economy picks up.

It’s worth noting that, in general, we tend to undertake our public sector construction projects in a perverse way. During boomtimes, there’s lots of revenue sloshing around to be spent, so projects get funded. During downturns, state and local governments are hurting for revenue, so we cut back. It would make a lot more sense to actually separate this kind of spending from the regular budget, establish targets, and encourage projects to be undertaken during downturns when it’s cheaper and easier to get things done.