(Of course, I’d point out to my friend Paul that Ken Cuccinelli would decimate public school (and health care, etc.) funding in Virginia and severely harm Latino/White/Black kids education, health, etc. – promoted by lowkell)
By Paul Goldman
[Of course, my friend Lowell doesn’t mention the “bipartisan transportation package” took $2-3 Billion originally available for K-12 education and now requires it to be spent for roads. It is easy to go with the “money”, choose real estate developers over poor kids. So in 2013 parlance, you can either take the Paul Goldman approach for helping poor kids be all they can be or the Boyd Marcus approach, it is your choice. Throwing stones is easy, as some Jewish guy pointed out 2000 years ago. But the record is clear as to which approach has actually meant progress for people in this state, there are any number of books which have examined the record on that score, if there is any doubt.] In a new study – actually, it isn’t a new study in terms of when it was done, but “new” in terms of it first being read closely by me last night after speaking with the author – the leading expert in the country shows that kids going to aging school facilities ARE DEFINITELY hurt in terms of both education and HEALTH due to their going to these obsolete, out of date K-12 school buildings. Ironically, the leading expert in this field teaches at Virginia Tech University! That’s right, here in the Commonwealth, another of our unused assets, a brilliant mind waiting to have insights used to benefit all of us.
The Professor’s name is Glen Earthman. I talked with him on the telephone yesterday; nice guy, friendly, and smart. He did a big study for the Maryland Task Force on School Facilities that is available online. So are various other studies he references and also some doctoral stuff done by Virginia Tech students on the issue.
Bottom line: The statistical evidence is clear, there is a definite connection – not for all students of course but for most of us normative types – between he condition of a school building in key areas and both the education performance and health of children, especially those vulnerable to such things.
Virginia has many of these old and aging schools, and schools in deteriorating conditions. They are everywhere, rich areas, poor areas, middle class areas although they are more prevalent of course in some rather than other such circumstances.
BUT BOTTOM LINE: With test scores falling in many places like Richmond, indeed with only 1 in 4 students tested ready for college as required(!), everything that is contributing to poor student performance needs at least to be understood and reflected upon. The correlation between old buildings, health and education – and a kid in bad health is not likely to be able to learn as required – is not only clear, but it is clear in so many ways that are obvious but yet we miss them very often.
THUS: The bipartisan push to eliminate the glitch in federal law that is MAKING IT WAY MORE COSTLY THAN NECESSARY to fix these schools conditions. Ken Cuccinelli and I, Terry McAuliffe and I, have held numerous joint public appearances on the subject collectively, although not all three of us in the same place at the same time.
According to the Professor’s studies, the elimination of this glitch, along with a few other tweaks to the law, would make it a lot easier for local and state officials to figure out a sustainable plan to modernize these schools within the financial resources of the localities who have to approve the projects.
It is part of why taking $2-$3 billion from monies that could have otherwise gone to schools, and instead using that money to help real estate developers with their road needs as was in the McDonnell transportation plan should bother advocates for these children as a priority issue, an urgent priority issue. The evidence thus accumulates further. As Bob Dylan wrote: “How many times can a man turn his head and pretend he just doesn’t see?”
As Professor Earthman discusses, the Education and health problems which aging school conditions increase last and thus grow more damaging over one’s lifetime. Thus, the cost to society IS HUGE, and yet so easily preventable by just allowing the free market to do what it can do and has been proven to do as Senator Kaine pointed out: fixing old schools would be far cheaper to localities if the IRS “prior use” rule is eliminated for public school projects as it is for private and other projects, schools, office buildings, condos.
Since Cuccinelli and McAuliffe, Cantor and Kaine, Warner and McDonnell, all agree, as does the President and Mitt Romney: what’s not to like politically at least? Professor Earthman has been discussing this angle of the issue for years but his voice has not been sufficiently heard in my view. Moreover, the health connection to student learning – a huge issue – has likewise not been sufficiently discussed nor understood.
MOREOVER: According to the Rutgers and VCU studies, the use of historic tax credits to finance projects is a big net positive to the country and the nation’s finances, as it eliminates huge amounts of federally subsidized debt, which in the long run is far costlier. Plus, current method has self evidentially not fixed these old schools – President’s Bush, Clinton and Obama have made this point in their own way – and it is hurting millions of kids.
Net, Net: Latino, white, black, Asian, it is the color of money – not skin color – that is holding our children back. The use of historic tax credits pays for itself, it makes no policy sense to allow a tax break for turning a school into an luxury condo, but not for turning the same school with the same money into a 21st-century public school building so these kids can get a true 21st-century education.
AND FINALLY: As the President has said, this is not about politics. Indeed, to allow politics to kill this change, to stop people from working on it, is a national shame.