A STAGGERING $322 billion (pound;210bn) is needed to renovate or replace deteriorating American schools - 10 times what the states are now planning to spend, and three times the highest previous estimate - according to the nation's largest teachers' union.
The report, by the National Education Association, says that more than 20 million children attend schools that are falling apart or are obsolete. And it says those projections are probably conservative.
"Where pupils learn can have a dramatic impact on what they learn," said association president Bob Chase. "Research shows that they learn best in safe, modern schools, with small classes and up-to-date technology."
States would need to increase their budgets 10-fold to keep up with the need, according to NEA.
In 1995, the government estimated that America's publicschools needed $112bn. The union said its research is more comprehensive and shows that $268bn is needed for repairs, and $54bn to upgrade buildings for Internet access. The problems affect schools in all locations almost equally, the study found.
While schools are almost en-tirely funded locally, the union has called for federal funds, including low or no-interest loans. One bipartisan Bill under consideration would supply $25bn for school modernisation. Another would furnish $1.3bn a year in loans for urgent repairs.
Republicans, who believe the federal government should not be heavily involved in schools, have resisted setting aside money specifically for school construction, despite a survey taken last year that found that 82 per cent of Americans support using federal funds to help modernise the nation's education system.