Rural School Facilities: State Policies that Provide Students with an Environment to Promote Learning

Last Updated: June 01, 2004

Rural School Facilities

Report PDF (181 KB)
By Ann McColl and Greg Malhoit

A rigorous and enriched curriculum. High quality teachers. Strong leadership. These are essential components of a high quality education. Yet, even where these conditions exist, student learning is difficult if the school building is substandard or suffers from old age and neglect. Regrettably, far too many rural schoolchildren attend school in inadequate facilities every day. For these children research confirms what common sense tells us: it is difficult for teachers to effectively teach and children to learn in schools that lack heat and air conditioning, have falling roofs and deteriorating floors, do not include safe electrical systems, contain toxic asbestos in ceilings, or are not wired for computers and the Internet.

While states spend $29.2 billion annually on school facilities, 60 percent of rural schools have at least one major building feature in need of replacement or extensive repair because their school facilities are frequently ignored, neglected, or under-funded. The result is a denial of equal educational opportunity for hundreds of thousands of our nation’s rural students. State governments, however, have the capacity to make a difference in the quality of rural education by creating and funding school facilities that provide every child with a school building that supports and promotes learning.

This report is intended to assist state policymakers, educators, and community members in identifying critical school facility issues and crafting state policies that meet the needs of all students, especially rural students. Our recommendations draw on state experiences—both good and bad. Appendix A is a set of “Guiding Principles” that summarize overarching themes that should be part of a fair and effective state school facilities program. A “State School Facilities Policy Checklist” is included in Appendix B as a simple tool for evaluating a state school facilities program. Appendix C lists other sources of information and resources about facility policies, funding, and rural school facilities.