Tennessee Needs 70 New Schools, Claims Report

The state needs to spend more than $9 billion on schools.

Source : Wikimedia Moses School Knoxville Tennessee

February 3, 2023

Author : Patty Allen

Education, especially during a child's formative years, is crucial. But one cannot expect children to study in crumbling buildings with poor infrastructures. The future of America is being molded in these schools.

According to a new state government report, Tennessee needs to spend more than $9 billion over five years in developing its K-12 education infrastructure. This is almost 9% more than a previous assessment.

Studies have shown that a fully-functional and adequate school building directly impacts students' learning, health, and behavior. According to a Tennessee study, there is a direct link between students' achievement and the condition of school buildings. Furthermore research has shown that poor building conditions result in greater chronic absenteeism among students.

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations says $5.4 billion of the total $9 billion will be used for renovations and technological advancements and nearly $3.6 billion for constructing additions and new schools.

The report provided by the commission addresses how local and state officials are struggling with increased construction costs, doubling over the past ten years due to higher labor and material expenses.

In Tennessee, most of the costs associated with constructing schools are covered by cities' and counties' property and sales tax revenue. 

Last year, the library roof of Cummings K-8 Alternative School collapsed, injuring three staff members. This incident highlights the dangerous and deplorable state in which students are spending a big part of their day. 

According to the state's most recent analysis of local needs, Memphis-Shelby County schools will need more than $464 million in school infrastructure repairs through mid-2026 at the cost of $3,450 per student.

However, funding is a problem. Shelby County commissioners approved barely half of the District of Memphis' $55 million capital improvement proposal last summer, putting several big projects on hold, including a replacement building for Trezevant High School in the city's Fraser neighborhood.

The former Memphis school board member, elected to the Shelby County Commission last year, Miska Clay Bibbs, said a thorough discussion is overdue. Before 1950, at least 33 Memphis schools were constructed. Bibbs said, "Not only is Memphis-Shelby County Schools the state's largest school district, but most of our school buildings are some of the oldest." She further added these buildings don't reflect the excellence of students, teachers, and families that the school represents, making the learning environment difficult.

The state commission is responsible for compiling the inventories and reporting them directly to the legislature, which started in 1998. It is a yearly reminder of Tennessee's billions of dollars in unmet capital construction requirements. This report has become crucial for determining urgent needs and establishing state priorities during the budgeting process.

The latest needs list totaled $63 billion, where education comes second place after transportation and before health and safety infrastructure requirements like clean water, fire protection, and public health.

After several years of new investments, the infrastructure requirements for college campuses decreased, and those for K-12 public schools increased.

According to local officials, in total, 70 additional schools must be built across Tennessee at an average cost of $42 million each. However, the amount can vary depending on the school's size, location, and purpose.

Category : Local Government State Government Schools

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