Topic:
SCHOOLS (GENERAL); SCHOOL FINANCE; LEGISLATION;
Location:
EDUCATION - FINANCE; SCHOOLS;

OLR Research Report


December 15, 2004

 

2004-R-0917

SCHOOL MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENTS IN ARIZONA, ARKANSAS, AND CALIFORNIA

By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst

You asked if other states have requirements for school maintenance and how they ensure schools are properly maintained.

SUMMARY

Computer searches and conversations with Mike Griffin and Kathy Christie at the Education Commission of the States yielded three states that have major school maintenance requirements in their state laws. The states are Arizona, Arkansas, and California. Although not the only states with school maintenance requirements, these three appear to have the most detailed and extensive ones.

The three states have several things in common. First, all three contribute substantial state funds towards school maintenance. Arkansas and Arizona are operating under court orders to improve the adequacy of their facilities and ameliorate disparities among facilities in wealthy and poor districts. As a result, each state is contributing a substantial amount of state money towards the cost of school facilities. California pays for 50% of certain maintenance costs for local school districts. These substantial financial contributions allow the states to enforce their maintenance requirements. In addition, all three states have stand-alone boards or agencies exclusively concerned with constructing, maintaining, and funding public school facilities. These boards are separate from their state boards of education, which concern themselves with instructional issues. These separate boards help focus attention on facility construction and upkeep. Finally, all three states either have or are developing detailed maintenance standards. Setting clear and specific rules aids enforcement.

Another enforcement mechanism in a new California law is the possibility of parent complaints. The new law allows parents to file complaints about maintenance with school district authorities and requires authorities to respond within a specified time.

This report summarizes the school maintenance programs in each of these states. If you would like more detailed information or copies of these states' school maintenance laws, please let us know.

ARIZONA

In 1994, the Arizona Supreme Court found the state's capital financing method for schools unconstitutional. In response, the legislature created a new school capital finance program financed by dedicated revenues from the state sales tax. The program is administered by the Arizona School Facilities Board and is called Students FIRST (Fair and Immediate Resources for Students Today). The School Facilities Board has nine voting members appointed by the governor. The superintendent of public instruction serves as a nonvoting member.

The Students FIRST Program has three funds. Money for school maintenance comes from the Building Renewal Fund. Arizona law requires the School Facilities Board to inventory and inspect all the state's schools and develop and keep updated a database to administer the building renewal fund. The board must distribute money from the fund according to a formula based on the school's age, number of students, and square footage.

The facilities board allocates money to school districts, which must use it for (1) major renovations and repairs, (2) upgrading systems and areas to maintain or extend the building's life, (3) infrastructure costs, or (4) placement and relocation of temporary buildings. In addition, districts can use up to 8% of their building renewal allocation for “routine preventive maintenance.” By law, routine preventive maintenance means services performed regularly at intervals from four times per year to once every three years that are intended to extend the building's useful life and reduce the need for major repairs. (ARS 15-2031).

ARKANSAS

Like Arizona, Arkansas is upgrading school maintenance as a result of a court order. In 2002, the Arkansas Supreme Court found that the state's educational facilities were inadequate and unequal, and that they violated the state's constitutional guarantee of a free, adequate, efficient, and substantially equal public education for all children. In response to the court's order to remedy the situation, the Arkansas legislature created the Joint Committee on Educational Facilities (Act 1181 of 2003). The same law required a physical assessment of all school facilities in the state to determine their educational adequacy and equity. Assessments had to be conducted by registered professional architects or engineers with experience in educational facilities. In 2003, the Joint Committee established an 80-member task force to help it carry out the assessments.

In 2004, the Arkansas legislature passed a law requiring the Joint Committee on Educational Facilities, in consultation with the State Education Department, to establish standards for custodial care and maintenance of the state's school facilities. The law's stated purpose was to:

1. ensure proper maintenance of school facilities,

2. eliminate deterioration of existing and future buildings to provide a safe and healthy environment for school staff and students, and

3. provide efficient use of state and local funds in the state's school districts.

By law, the standards, among other things, had to (1) provide for best practices in custodial, maintenance, and preventive maintenance; (2) incorporate a schedule of routine maintenance and cleaning; (3) provide a plan for training school custodial and maintenance staffs; (4) provide for adequate maintenance and custodial supplies and space for their storage; and (5) establish a system for documenting work performed (Act 87 of 2003, (SB 53) signed into law 2/04).

The task force of the Joint Committee on Educational Facilities published its recommended Custodial/Maintenance Standards in November 2004. The task force recommended that school districts be required to set aside 9% of their district expenses each year for maintenance. But the task force noted that its recommended standards cannot be adopted and implemented without additional funding.

CALIFORNIA

Before 2004, California law already required that, when a school construction project receives state funding, the State Allocation Board (SAB) require the school district to make all necessary repairs, renewals, and replacements to make sure the project is kept in good repair, working order, and condition. In California, the SAB administers the school construction program through the Office of Public School Construction (OPSC). It also determines how to allocate state resources for public school construction, modernization, and maintenance. The SAB consists of the state's directors of Finance and Department of General Services, the superintendent of public instruction, three senators, three House members, and one member appointed by the governor.

A 2004 law requires that, as a condition of receiving state funding after this year, school districts must establish a facilities inspection program to ensure that facilities are in “good repair.” The law also defines “good repair” to mean that a school is maintained so as to be clean, safe, and functional, as determined by an evaluation instrument developed by the OPSC. OPSC must develop an interim evaluation instrument by January 25, 2005, and must recommend options for permanent state maintenance standards to the governor and legislature by December 31, 2005. The interim instrument cannot require capital enhancements that exceed the building's design and construction standards.

The new law also requires the state's School Accountability Report Card for each school to include information on maintenance needed to bring the school into good repair.

Finally, the law requires schools to post in all classrooms by January 1, 2005 a notice that parents may complain to the school district if facilities are not clean, safe, and in good repair. Districts must adopt a uniform complaint system for parents to use in making these and other types of complaints. Districts must resolve all complaints within 30 days and notify the complainant within 45 days. Unresolved complaints may be taken to the local school board and complaints involving an emergency or urgent threat may be appealed to the state superintendent and state board of education (SB 550 – signed into law 9/04).

JL:ts