AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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School Building Conditions

Turning Crumbling Buildings into Environments
for Learning

The research is unequivocal: Poor school building conditions are a serious threat to the health and academic performance of students. Achievement is significantly lower in schools with poor conditions, studies show. Likewise, asthma induced by mold and other indoor air quality problems is an increasingly prevalent school health issue and a major contributor to student and staff absenteeism.

Things don't have to be this way. Schools can be modernized or built from scratch using proven, cost-effective and eco-friendly solutions. Many schools already are meeting these high standards, serving as models to others

Unions need to play a vital role in making schools the best possible learning environments. Teachers and school staff have first-hand knowledge of the elements that foster student achievement. The men and women of the construction trades have the know-how needed to build high-quality buildings that stand the test of time. That’s why the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO has joined the AFT as a partner in our national "Building Minds, Minding Buildings" campaign.

The campaign aims to improve the conditions in school buildings through concerted and immediate action at the federal, state and local levels. Many of our recommendations can be found in our recent report, "Building Minds, Minding Buildings: Turning Crumbling Buildings into Environments for Learning." Additional resources by state can be found here.

We urge policymakers and elected officials to make these recommendations a top priority. We also urge school staff, parents and concerned community members to get involved in the decision-making process at every level. (Parents and school employees are invited to take our school building survey, and read selected comments here.)

The AFT believes that healthy, well-maintained schools that are conducive to learning cannot be reserved for select communities; they must be part of the academic agenda for every American student.

We cannot put off action for another day. The cost of continued neglect is too great. America's students deserve safe and healthy schools—and they need them today.