School construction funding

School districts have an obligation to provide facilities that are constructed and maintained to meet the educational and safety needs of their students and staff. In turn, the state has a responsibility to help districts pay for needed construction and renovation projects. However, school districts have faced a two-fold obstacle in meeting their obligation — inadequate or nonexistent state funding, and overly complicated state approval process for school construction projects, known as PlanCon.

Through PSBA’s advocacy efforts, Act 70 of 2019 was enacted to modernize and simplify the PlanCon process. It also creates a project building maintenance and repair grant program to be used for smaller maintenance and modernization projects as well as health and safety upgrades, emergencies and other approved projects.

Unfortunately, the new PlanCon program remains unused and unfunded. A moratorium that began in 2016 and continues today on accepting school projects for reimbursement has left districts and taxpayers left to carry the full financial burden.

Many schools across the state are struggling with a variety of facility maintenance, upgrades and construction needs. Some are dealing with lead and asbestos removal, while others are dealing with leaking roofs, failing mechanical and electrical systems, and crumbling infrastructure. And many schools need to address overcrowded classrooms and enhance school security issues.

In the absence of state reimbursement for school construction over the past five years, many school districts are being forced to cut educational programs to free up resources to address critical construction or maintenance needs.

It’s time to restart and provide sustainable funding under the PlanCon program. It’s time to use, and appropriately fund, the new program. Schools are increasingly struggling with maintenance and facility upgrades and construction needs. This effort must be a priority – our students and families are counting on us.