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Closing gaps identified by the State of Our Schools Report

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The most recent report containing research on U.S. public school infrastructure is the 2021 State of Our Schools: America’s PK-12 Public School Facilities report. This effort is a collaboration between the 21st Century School Fund, the International WELL Building Institute, and the National Council on School Facilities. The school facilities infrastructure funding gaps they discovered in the state of our public school system are daunting, but not impossible to overcome. The solution: a combination of policy change, improved funding systems, and a culture of transparency and accountability. 

But… where do we start? Underlying all of the major recommendations uncovered for modern PK-12 infrastructure stewardship is a single theme centered on data, organization, planning, and process. A theme that can not only be addressed by modernized facilities management software implementation, but also can reduce the funding gap exponentially year after year. Let’s take a look at what this means for you and your school. 

Identifying the need of school facilities

The condition of U.S. PK-12 school facilities infrastructure funding is not good. Per the 2021 State of Our Schools report, over half of America’s school districts require major upgrades to their school buildings, with 41% reporting an HVAC system need, as well as other needs for roofing, lighting, and safety. 

The benchmark for calculating school facilities funding needs is 7% of current replacement value (CRV) which amounts to $195B in outlay, but districts report spending only $110B annually on average from 2017-2019. That leaves a gap of $85B per year in total, with an annual maintenance & operations (M&O) gap of $27.6B. These gaps are even wider when looking at rural and high-poverty districts. 


Want a way easier way to digest this report? Download the infographic here

The state of school facilities infrastructure funding

School districts aren’t at fault—in fact, they are trying their best. According to this report, the gap in overall PK-12 school facilities infrastructure funding grew 85% in just 5 years, and in 2021 was up to $85 Billion per year. Why? How? Well, every year our school buildings age, facilities & infrastructure take a toll, and if those aging and outdated systems aren’t addressed, the problem worsens. From 2009 to 2019, state funding for capital projects and debt service steadily declined by 59%. Today, the majority of states, 66%, only provide 24% or less of dedicated funding and 11 of those states provide no dedicated funding at all. 

At the federal level, the problem is even worse. “To date, there is no dedicated program or office in the U.S. Department of Education that has staffing and technical capacity to provide support to states or districts on school facilities data, research or best practice.” As for funding, federal funds accounted for only about 1.3% of school district’s capital outlay in that same fiscal period, from 2009 and 2019. 

The capital outlay of schools is second only to highway infrastructure in our country, but unlike transportation, which has most of it’s capital costs paid for by state and federal funding sources, the local school districts carry the majority of responsibility for their own funding needs. Individual school districts were responsible for 77% of capital outlay funding from 2009-2019 and paid out over $20B in interest alone in FY2019 from their operating budgets, which is $4B more than what public schools received in federal Title I funding. 

Closing the gap in school facilities infrastructure funding

$85B seems like an insurmountable number, especially knowing that it is increasing every year that improvements aren’t made and school facilities funding isn’t increased. But there is hope. According to the report, a research team from the 21st Century School Fund and the Center for Cities + Schools at the University of California, Berkeley identified 6 major areas to improve the situation:

  1. Public governance and decision making
  2. Facilities operating and capital funding
  3. Facilities management
  4. Facilities planning
  5. Facilities data and information management
  6. Accountability

There are priority actions listed in each area involving local, state, and federal recommendations, including systemic policy changes needed. But in each area, there are one or more items that can be improved upon, supported, or addressed entirely by implementing modernized facility management technology. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that: “A smarter system of facilities planning and management could reduce the annual need for capital investment by 1 percent of CRV or nearly $28 billion (2020$) every year.”1 

If that’s the case, one year of implementing a Cloud-based Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) across all K-12 school districts could eliminate the M&O funding gap of $27.6B entirely. And if you do the math year over year, there are exponential repercussions. If the infrastructure gap remains the same, implementing a CMMS reduces the gap by 33% in year one, 50% in year two, and 96% in year three. Now, we know that’s not exactly how life works–the school facilities infrastructure funding gap isn’t a static target and it would be an impossible task to implement this kind of solution across all schools in the course of a year. But think about the impact each modernization of facilities management has across the country over time. 

While our country needs some serious policy reform, there are actions that school districts can take into their own hands. From data aggregation, visibility, and sharing to process improvements, M&O planning, and capital project support, a web-based project management information system like iiQ Facilities can be one of the best investments your school can make. And the next step is easy. Talk to one of our iiQ Facilities solution experts today


*NOTE: unless otherwise annotated, the data in this blog is pulled from the 2021 State of Our Schools Report

  1.  Based on nationally recognized standards that have been adopted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (www.nacubo.org), the Association of School Business Officials International (http://asbointl.org/), and APPA: Leadership in Educational Facilities (www.appa.org). ↩︎