What’s Mike Mulligan Got to Do With It?

In the small town where I grew up in central Connecticut, in the era of avocado-colored kitchen appliances and a national reliance on wide collars and polyester fabrics, there were five elementary schools. One of these had already closed by the time I reached kindergarten and one was brand new. My hometown has grown over the years, and that once-closed school has been refurbished and turned into the town’s early childhood education center. And while I don’t know what kind of updating has gone on in the town’s four other elementary schools, I am curious. A new report from the Center for Green Schools*, with a foreword by former President Bill Clinton (whose Education Department studied the same issue in 1995), found it would cost more than $270 billion over the next decade to bring our nation’s elementary and secondary schools back to their original condition. That leaves out the cost of bringing our nation’s schools up to 21st century standards, which would double the figure.

The inner-city school in which I taught in Massachusetts was built at the turn of the 20th century. My classroom had a single electrical outlet. And I am fairly certain the building was heated by Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel. A few towns away, where I lived, my sons’ elementary school had opened early in the 21st century. I don’t need to tell you the difference was so vast it could only be measured in light years.

A student’s educational success or failure depends on thousands of factors. One of these is the quality of the learning environment in which she spends over six hours every day. Are your students enjoying a quality learning environment? Or are there updates you are eager for? Share your stories with us. Maybe your facility’s worst problem is the avocado-colored appliances in the faculty kitchen.

*The report was co-sponsored by the NEA, AFT, the 21st Century School Fund, the American Lung Association, and the National PTA.

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