The Edwards Agency

Opinion

Guest Column

Fix America's crumbling schools

Guest Column by Senator Patty Murray
Have you ever looked in the corner of a school classroom and seen water spots on the ceiling from a leaky roof? Or have you been to a school where the structure of a building is insecure? I have. And many students across our state have.
   The General Accounting Office recently released information on America's crumbling public schools; the first comprehensive school facilities survey in more than 30 years. The results show that much work needs to be done to ensure a healthy and safe learning environment in public schools.
   After surveying 10,000 schools in more than 5,000 school districts across the nation, the GAO found that crumbling schools are not solely in large cities as many may think, but in suburbs, rural areas, and small towns, as well. In fact, Washington state has the third-highest percentage in the nation of schools reporting at least one inadequate building of any type. Our young people deserve better.
   We cannot expect our students to compete if they are not in an environment where they can learn. And they certainly cannot learn if their schools are in poor condition. From lead in the paint to broken heating and ventilation systems, many schools are in dire need of repair.
   As we work to balance the budget, many difficult choices must be made about where to spend our resources. Providing safe and healthy schools is a national problem. Any plan must help build a partnership between local, state and federal governments and not interfere with local control of education.
   Learning starts with good teachers and appropriate texts and materials. But if you do not have a classroom that is healthy, safe, and meets the technology requirements of today, students will have a harder time excelling tomorrow.
   As we move into the 21st century, it is absolutely critical that we provide students with a setting that allows them to gain the valuable knowledge they will need to succeed in the workplace. Repairing our schools is a good place to start.