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Obama’s School Modernization Plan: Good For Students And The Economy

As part of the jobs package that he rolled out last night, President Obama embraced a plan (pushed very hard by Vice President Biden’s former chief economist Jared Bernstein) to spur job creation by modernizing and repairing schools. “There are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school — and we can give it to them, if we act now,” Obama said.

School modernization is good policy on a couple of levels. For starters, as Valerie Strauss at the Answer Sheet notes, studies have shown that better facilities makes for a better education:

Research over decades shows that the condition of school facilities affects student achievement. According to a 2011 report by the 21st Century School Fund, there are clear correlations between the quality of school facilities and student and teacher attendance, teacher retention and recruitment, child and teacher health, and the quality of curriculum.

In a set of 20 studies analyzed by the fund, all but one study showed a positive correlation between the achievement of students and the condition of the school facility once student demographic factors were controlled for.

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And, of course, investing money in school modernization is a job creator, as the Economic Policy Institute has found:

Using existing school aid formulas, Congress could allocate money to the 100 biggest school districts and the state education agencies to put people to work within a matter of weeks. Before winter hits, old, thermally inefficient windows could be replaced, insulation could be added to roofs, old boilers could be swapped out, and tens of thousands of construction workers could be back on the job. By next summer, hundreds of thousands of workers could be employed making improvements to facilities in every school district.

Obama today promoted the plan by telling a story about elementary school students forced to attend class in a trailer. Watch it:

As Bernstein put it, school modernization is “a smart way to get a lot of people who really need jobs back to work, fix a critical part of our institutional infrastructure, save energy costs, provide kids with a better, healthier learning environment, and do so in way that everyone can see and feel good about each morning when they drop their kids at school.”