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- When Tariffs Impact Schools - October 19, 2018
“Is the faculty meeting in the cafeteria, or the auditorium?” I ask two of my colleagues, who both give me smiles filled with bemusement.
“We don’t have an auditorium,” comes the reply followed by a resentful chuckle.
How could I forget that the auditorium is no longer operational and that an entire wing of a large, suburban high school building is boarded up, taped off due to asbestos abatement, and will be under construction for an indefinite amount of time?
The district leaders had an appropriate plan. They proposed the design of a new entrance (the current being difficult to identify), new administrative and counseling offices, a beautiful auditorium with a balcony, and a gymnasium with a walking track above. It was supposed to be on a multi-year renovation schedule.
This plan, approved by the taxpayers, was well organized and clear in its purpose. With work beginning during the summer of 2018, teacher’s classrooms were emptied and moved to a vacant elementary school. Teachers and students entered the school in September expecting dust, noise, and progress.
Instead, we returned to silence. No workers in hard hats were milling about the school. No cacophony of noisy drills or hammers heard daily. No hope that we would have a functioning auditorium next school year.
Many schools in the United States built during the post-war baby boom era are in need of maintenance and repair. The building where I teach is no exception. Many buildings throughout the country are past their prime, but repairs, of course, require tax dollars. All of these issues are enduring, what is new is an obstacle many educators did not consider: U.S. Steel Tariffs.
Dr. Mark Potter, Superintendent of the Liverpool Central School District, cited many reasons for the delay in the auditorium renovation at the high school where I work. Stating in his blog: “Some of the increase in project cost appears to be attributable to the sheer complexity of the project, a poor time of the year to conduct the bidding process, added SED scope requirements, too many alternates included in the design, an escalation in the cost of steel, and the limited availability of labor, locally.” Dr. Potter explained that the project would not be as grand as originally planned and would cost 10 percent more of the district’s budget (“an increase from $30 million to about $33 million.”) Although this increase does not raise the cost to taxpayers in the community, it is still a significant increase to the overall cost of the project–a renovation that will be scaled back in size and scope.Any construction project is inconvenient, but when federal policy impacts public education it is evident that Washington does dictate Main St. Click To Tweet
Any construction project is inconvenient, but when federal policy impacts public education it is evident that Washington does dictate Main St. Furthermore, educators in many states will agree that the unfunded mandates, unrealistic curriculums, the No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top Programs, coupled with the alphabet-soup of school regulations limits what public schools offer students. The steel tariffs are yet another example of an obstacle that educators need to conquer while educating students who are facing a myriad of challenges. If a large, suburban, well-funded district like the one I teach in is facing roadblocks to better facilities, what about those buildings in Baltimore, Maryland that lacked proper heating last winter? How can our country demonstrate that we value education when our physical learning environments are screaming a much different message?If a large, suburban, well-funded district like the one I teach in is facing roadblocks to better facilities, what about those buildings in Baltimore, Maryland that lacked proper heating last winter? Click To Tweet