America’s schools are in such disrepair that it would cost more than $270 billion just to get elementary and secondary school buildings back to their original conditions—and twice that to get them up to date, a report released today estimates. In a foreword to the report, Bill Clinton said that “we are still struggling to provide equal opportunity” to children and urged the first federal study of school buildings in almost two decades.

The Center for Green Schools’ researchers reviewed spending and estimates that schools spent $211 billion on upkeep between 1995 and 2008. During that time, schools should have spent some $482 billion, the group calculated. That left a $271 billion gap between what should have been spent on upkeep and what was—or $5,450 per student, the group reported. To update the buildings, the figure doubles, to $542 billion over the next decade. “When we talk about a quality education, we talk about the ‘who’ and the ‘what’— teachers and curriculum—but we don’t talk about the ‘where.’ That needs to change,” says a green building advocate.

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