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News items come from the U.S. Department of Educations's National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF).

Letter: IA Leg. should extend school infrastructure support
-- Matt Coen, Des Moines, Des Moines Register

Iowa: March 19, 2017 -- The board of the Des Moines West Side Chamber of Commerce voted in its March meeting to support House File 230, which would extend the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) program, currently scheduled to sunset in 2029. This act was formerly known as the Local Option Sales and Services Tax for school infrastructure. We believe continued and sustained investment in our public school infrastructure is critical for the future of our community. In addition to educating our future leaders and workforce, there is a direct correlation between the most sought after schools and the most sought after neighborhoods. To put it simply, great schools fuel great communities. Since its adoption, Des Moines Public Schools has demonstrated responsible and effective use of its SAVE money. The district’s nearly 33,000 students are educated in 72 buildings that are an average of 65 years old. Despite these staggering enrollment numbers and aging facilities, the district has modernized its facilities to deliver quality education. New mechanical systems and window and door replacement have earned the district accolades for energy efficiency. In addition, improved safety and expanded Career Tech programs have been made possible through SAVE revenue.

School sales tax returns to ballot
-- Jason White, AdVantage News

Illinois: March 19, 2017 -- After six years, a school funding sales tax proposition is back on the ballot in Madison County — and educators are making their case to voters to avoid another defeat. In the April 2011 consolidated election, 80 percent of the county’s voters rejected a 1 percent sales tax for school facilities. Madison County Regional Superintendent Robert Daiber, who led the effort the first time, attributes the defeat partially to voters’ misconceptions. “It was looked at as I wanted this because I was getting the m - See more at:

School projects push forward, despite debate, delays
-- JESSICA FULLER, Johnson City Press

Tennessee: March 18, 2017 -- This year proved to have some hurdles for three Washington County school projects, but amid some setbacks and delays, plans for the projects keep pushing forward. The three projects, which were spurred to alleviate overcrowding and aging buildings, are guided by the new leadership of the schools, as Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton accepted the position after the previous director retired in the summer.

Decatur high school renovations show what’s possible
-- Jason Nevel, State Journal-Register

Illinois: March 18, 2017 -- DECATUR -- As the Springfield School District embarks on a comprehensive plan to update its facilities, renovations to Decatur's two high schools offer a glimpse of what's possible. MacArthur and Eisenhower high schools were stripped down a few years ago and underwent a combined $84 million in renovations, funded through a 1 percent sales tax increase Macon County voters approved in 2010. Each school now resembles something found on a college campus — a modern design complete with glass walls that allow for natural light, renovated commons area, contemporary classrooms, new cafeterias, collaboration areas and flexible furnishings. Or, as school officials put it, the buildings were brought into the 21st century, where education emphasizes technology, student interaction and collaboration.

Funds for Kihei High School construction
-- Staff Writer, KITV-TV

Hawaii: March 18, 2017 -- More money could be coming for Kihei High School on Maui to move on to the next phase of construction. Construction for the new High School began in 2015. This week the State House passed a proposed budget that included $63 million dollars for the next phase. If given final approval, this would be the single largest Department of Education appropriation on Maui. It would also bring total appropriations for the project so far to $157 million dollars.

EDITORIAL: Nevada Democrats want taxpayers to pay more for public-works projects

Nevada: March 18, 2017 -- During the 2015 Legislature, with Republican majorities in both the state Senate and Assembly, long-overdue legislation was proposed to address state-mandated prevailing wages on public projects. Senate Bill 119 would have exempted school and university system construction from such requirements. Allowing contractors to provide market wages, as they do on private construction projects, stretches capital dollars and creates more jobs. Plus, if the Clark County School District did not have to pay prevailing wages on desperately needed new school construction, it could build five schools for the cost of four. SB 119 passed and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval in early March 2015, about a month into the session. But under pressure from Democrats and their Big Labor benefactors, Republicans got weak-kneed. In the waning days of the session, the Senate amended Assembly Bill 172, undoing the exemption in SB 119. The Assembly later concurred, and Gov. Sandoval got a new bill. The wage for school and university system construction would now have to be 90 percent of the prevailing wage, and the project cost threshold on when prevailing wages must be paid for public works was $250,000.

Letter: TIFS hurt Muncie schools
-- V.L. RABENSTEIN, Star Press

Indiana: March 18, 2017 -- The dire financial situation facing Muncie Community Schools has been many years in the making. Creative bookkeeping, financial mismanagement and poor decisions without regard to long-term consequences are the primary cause. But MCS financial crisis is further compounded by tax increment financing, (TIF) Districts, which capture property tax revenue that would otherwise flow to the MCS general fund. I suggest that a superior public school system is the best economic development tool around, and yet TIF Districts are allowed to siphon millions of dollars of property tax revenue from our public schools in the guise of “economic development." Property taxes were designed to provide operating revenue for civil units such as schools and libraries, and for police and fire protection. Property taxes were never meant for economic development. Please consider that the recent 43 percent increase in county taxes included an increase to our economic development income taxes. TIF Districts were originally intended to be shut down once the original bonds for infrastructure improvements were retired, but TIF Districts have become eternal entities in Muncie and Delaware County. Even when they have captured enough revenue to retire the debt, our officials refuse to close them down. There is current legislation that allows units of government to return TIF money to local schools, though it's not mandatory. The mayor stepped in to address the heat problems at East Washington Academy. I encourage Mayor Dennis Tyler and his economic development appointees to “save our schools” by returning the TIF money that MCS so desperately needs.

-- Barnett Wright, On Friday, March 17, the Alabama Supreme Court rul

Alabama: March 18, 2017 -- On Friday, March 17, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that Jefferson County can refinance nearly $600 million in school construction bonds and use $60 million in annual savings for a number of area projects. Some of the savings — $18 million — will go annually to county school systems. Each system will get a share of the money based on enrollment. For example, Jefferson County school, with the largest enrollment, will receive an estimated $6.3 million annually and Birmingham City Schools, with the second largest enrollment, will receive an estimated $4.1 million annually.

Plans underway for State College Area elementary school projects
-- BRITNEY MILAZZO, Centre Daily Times

Pennsylvania: March 18, 2017 -- STATE COLLEGE About a year from now, construction could start on a new elementary school, Houserville, while two others in the State College Area School District could see renovations and additions: Corl Street and Radio Park.

Caddo schools: Many half empty, others need space
-- Segann March , Shreveport Times

Louisiana: March 17, 2017 -- Caddo Parish Schools has a finite amount of resources, a large number of failing schools and many half-full buildings. Superintendent Lamar Goree believes combining schools is both a logical way to address those issues and would benefit the students of the combined schools. But when he proposed the idea for two of the district's schools earlier this year, emotions flared from both the board and the community. Community members questioned the Caddo Parish School Board's motives after the board voted to merge Fair Park and Booker T. Washington, two predominantly black high schools. Goree addressed community concerns in a January meeting. "If we look at the capacity and occupancy of Fair Park and BTW, they're both operating at about 65 percent occupancy," he said. And those two schools are not the only ones that have lots of empty space. More than half of Caddo Parish schools have 100 or more students under the building's enrollment capacity.

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