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John Hennessy III,

Building Minds, Minding Buildings: Turning Crumbling Schools into Environments for Learning

Posted by Content Coordinator on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

“Nearly 20 years ago the American Federation of Teachers called for a “Marshall Plan” for urban schools, pointing out that the infrastructure of cities had deteriorated as federal funds were sharply reduced.  Existing school buildings were crumbling and new schools were not being built. This problem has now spread far beyond the boundaries of urban school districts and touches nearly every school system in our nation. Staff in these schools struggle to educate students in conditions that few corporations, much less building inspectors, would tolerate. Mold, leaking ceilings, extreme temperatures, raw sewage seeping into hallways, mice droppings, severely overcrowded classrooms—these un- healthy and/or unsafe conditions plague tens of thousands of old and new school buildings where millions of Americans age 5 and older must study and work. For the most part, officials have been unwilling to adequately confront this serious situation, which is affecting teaching and learning. The AFT has long championed higher standards and greater accountability. We believe that these principles must be reflected not only in high-quality teaching  and a challenging curriculum, but also in the planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation of our nation’s schools. We continue to believe that the school environment cannot be separated from the academic agenda. The U.S. Department of Education under the Bush administration commissioned a study (called for in Section 5414 of the No Child Left Behind Act) on the “health and learning impacts of environmentally unhealthy public school buildings on students and teachers.” The study found “the overall evidence strongly suggests that poor environments in schools, due primarily to effects of indoor pollutants, adversely influence the health, performance, and attendance of students.”1 Sadly, the department shelved the study’s unpleasant results. Our report focuses on the problem of inadequate, unhealthy and unsafe public school building conditions; the consequences of poor conditions on learning, health and staff retention; the elements of well-designed, well-built, well-maintained schools; and recommendations for action at all levels to improve school buildings…”

Building Minds, Minding Buildings: Turning Crumbling Schools into Environments for Learning

About the American Federation of Teachers
“The mission of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, is to improve the lives of our members and their families, to give voice to their legitimate professional, economic and social aspirations, to strengthen the institutions in which we work, to improve the quality of the services we provide, to bring together all members to assist and support one another and to promote democracy, human rights and freedom in our union, in our nation and throughout the world.”

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