Groundbreaking report will provide in-depth look at condition of every school building in state.
A coalition of 12 Michigan Intermediate School Districts today announced plans to launch a comprehensive statewide school infrastructure study. The review will provide lawmakers, school administrators and parents with a better understanding of the long-term costs associated with building upkeep, necessary health and safety upgrades, and opportunities to support students’ needs for generations to come.
“We are excited that the Michigan Legislature has approved funding to support this critical study,” said Oakland Schools Superintendent Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson. “Our priority will always be the health and well-being of our students and staff. We anticipate the findings in the study will afford us the opportunity to proactively address the challenges caused by aging infrastructure. This is great news for our school community.”
The coalition will work with intermediate school districts and regional education service agencies across the state, as well as Michigan-based construction, engineering and accounting firms to conduct the comprehensive study. The auditing process will be led by an engineering team that will visit every school building in Michigan to identify aging or unsafe infrastructure, needed safety or security upgrades and unused space that could be repurposed.
“Michigan is last in the nation when it comes to supporting school districts with their capital construction needs. As a result, students in low-income communities struggle to learn in aged and outdated facilities,” said Kent ISD Superintendent Ron Koehler. “This study will help us set a common standard for learning environments to support all students, regardless of their zip code.”
The well-being and overall safety of students and staff will be a major focus, with the audit assessing buildings statewide to provide an aggregated look into the needs schools have throughout the state.
“Between COVID-19, the Flint Water Crisis and recent school safety concerns, we’re seeing a greater push from the community to ensure safety measures are put in place and schools are protected from environmental hazards,” said Wayne RESA Superintendent Dr. Daveda Colbert. “The infrastructure study will provide the most thorough look ever at Michigan’s school facilities and will provide recommendations on how we can move forward with a cost-effective and sustainable solution that lasts for the long term.”
The study will be done under the framework approved within Section 11y of the 2022-23 School Aid Budget signed by Governor Whitmer. A majority of the funding will be spent on securing engineers from Michigan familiar with school construction to travel to each and every building in Michigan, conduct a thorough audit and provide detailed findings.
“Access to safe and healthy school facilities varies greatly throughout our state. For some of our rural communities, the cost associated to support the school infrastructure needs exceeds the taxpayers’ ability to support them. Thanks to the Governor and the State Legislature’s allocation of Section 11Y funding, intermediate school districts across the state have an unprecedented opportunity to assess and recommend comprehensive reform to address school infrastructure needs,” said Northwest Education Services Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Ceglarek. “Similar to the School Finance Research Collaborative Report on the funding necessary to educate a child, this study will outline the needs and opportunities that exist to properly support school-building infrastructure across our great state of Michigan.”
The study aligns with the recommendations included in the release of School Finance Research Collaborative’s initial groundbreaking study of Michigan’s school finances in 2018, along with its subsequent 2021 update, which remains the gold-standard review of Michigan’s school funding formula. The study left open three key areas for review that could not be completed due to time and resource constraints: transportation, high poverty, and facilities. Work on a transportation study began in 2021 and was released publicly in September 2022. This latest phase is being conducted through the School Finance Research Foundation (SFRF), a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit, and will be released by the SFRC upon its completion.
“This grant award continues the important work that was outlined in the School Finance Research Collaborative 2018 study,” said Ingham ISD Superintendent Jason Mellema. “We know there is a significant difference in the infrastructure needs between districts and this will be the first comprehensive study to help improve in-person learning environments for students and staff across the entire state.”
To learn more about the School Finance Research Collaborative, please visit www.fundmischools.org.