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When I was asked to support a federal lawsuit that says Detroit’s deteriorating schools were having a negative impact on students’ ability to learn, the decision was a no-brainer.

當我被要求支持一項聯邦訴訟,稱底特律日益惡化的學校對學生的學習能力產生了負面影響時,我毫不猶豫地做出了這個決定。

Detroit’s schools are so old and raggedy that last year the city’s schools chief, Nikolai Vitti, ordered the water shut off across the district due to lead and copper risks from antiquated plumbing. By mid-September, elevated levels of copper and lead were confirmed in 57 of 86 schools tested.

底特律的學校年久失修,臟亂不堪,以至于該市的學校校長尼古拉維蒂(Nikolai Vitti)去年下令關閉整個學區的供水,原因是陳舊的水管可能會帶來鉛和銅的風險。截至9月中旬,在接受檢測的86所學校中,有57所學校的銅和鉛含量有所上升。



“The conditions and outcomes of Plaintiffs’ schools, as alleged, are nothing short of devastating,” U.S. District Court Judge Stephen J. Murphy III wrote. “When a child who could be taught to read goes untaught, the child suffers a lasting injury – and so does society.”

美國地方法院法官斯蒂芬·j·墨菲三世(Stephen J. Murphy III)寫道:“原告學校的條件和結果,正如所稱的那樣,簡直是毀滅性的。”
“如果一個本來可以學習閱讀的孩子沒有受到教育,這個孩子就會遭受持久的傷害——社會也是如此。”

But Judge Murphy found that the “deplorable and unsafe conditions” that deny children access to literacy were not shown to stem from “irrational” decisions of the State. The case has been appealed to the U.S. 6th Circuit.

但墨菲法官發現,剝奪兒童受教育機會的“可悲和不安全的條件”并不表明來自國家的“非理性”決定。此案已被上訴至美國第六巡回法院。

A nationwide problem

一個全國性的問題

Detroit’s dilemma is not unique. Before I became a professor of educational leadership and policy, I served as assistant state superintendent for research and policy in the Michigan Department of Education. I know a thing or two about how poor school facilities can have an effect on student learning. One recent study, for instance, found that in schools without air conditioning, for every one Fahrenheit degree increase in school year temperature, the amount learned that year goes down by 1 percent.

底特律的困境并非獨一無二。在我成為教育領導與政策教授之前,我曾在密歇根州教育廳擔任研究與政策助理總監。我對學校設施差如何影響學生學習略知一二。例如,最近的一項研究發現,在沒有空調的學校里,學年溫度每上升1華氏度,當年學到的東西就會減少1%。



“The school has no air conditioning. On hot days classroom temperatures climb into the 90s,” the lawsuit stated in reference to the grim conditions at Luther Burbank middle school in San Francisco. “The school heating system does not work well. In winter, children often wear coats, hats, and gloves during class to keep warm.”

“學校沒有空調。在炎熱的日子里,教室里的溫度會攀升到90多華氏度(約32攝氏度)”
“學校的供暖系統不太好。冬天,孩子們經常在上課時穿外套、戴帽子和手套來保暖。”

A similar situation happened in Baltimore’s public schools in January 2018, when the city’s schools were closed after parents and educators complained that students were being exposed to frigid conditions that the local teachers union described as “inhumane.”

2018年1月,巴爾的摩市的公立學校也發生了類似的情況。當時,家長和教育工作者抱怨學生被暴露在寒冷的環境中,當地教師工會稱這種環境“不人道”,導致該市的學校停課。

A few years ago in the Yazoo County School District in Mississippi, the lights were so old at the high school that maintenance workers couldn’t find replacement bulbs when the lights went out.

幾年前,在密西西比州雅祖縣學區,學校的燈太舊了,以至于當燈熄滅時,維修人員找不到替換的燈泡。

In Philadelphia, the head of the teachers union recently described the current state of the city’s schools as “untenable.”

在費城,教師工會主席最近將該市學校的現狀描述為“不堪一擊”。

“From flaking lead paint, asbestos exposure, persistent rodent issues, the presence of mold, and even the lack of heat on bitterly cold days, educators and children in Philadelphia are learning and working in environmentally toxic facilities every day,” Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, wrote in a January op-ed.

費城教師聯合會主席杰里·喬丹在1月的一篇專欄文章中寫道:“從剝落的鉛涂料、石棉暴露、持續的嚙齒動物問題、霉菌的存在,甚至在嚴寒的日子里缺乏熱量,費城的教育工作者和孩子們每天都在有毒的環境中學習和工作。”

Costs and consequences

成本和后果

Indeed, miserable conditions like these are not only hard on the children. They seriously impair school districts’ ability to retain their most valuable asset – their teachers. Teachers leave their jobs for a variety of reasons, but facility quality is a key factor.

事實上,像這樣悲慘的環境不僅對孩子們來說很艱難。它們嚴重損害了學區保留其最寶貴資產——教師的能力。教師因各種原因離職,但設施質量是一個關鍵因素。

Addressing the infrastructure needs of America’s public schools will be costly. However, continuing to ignore them would be even more costly. The educational impact of substandard facilities on students cannot be overstated. For example, at one elementary school in the Detroit “right to literacy” case that I supported, not a single sixth-grade student could read at a minimally proficient level. Perhaps poor facilities can’t be blamed entirely for the low reading ability at this particular school – but those conditions are still a potential factor.

滿足美國公立學校的基礎設施需求將耗資巨大。然而,繼續忽視它們將付出更大的代價。不合格設施對學生的教育影響怎么強調也不過分。例如,在我支持的底特律“讀寫權”案中,在一所小學,沒有一個六年級的學生能夠達到最低熟練程度的閱讀。也許,這所學校的閱讀能力低下不能完全歸咎于糟糕的設施,但這些條件仍然是一個潛在的因素。

Who should pay for it?

誰應該為此買單?

Funding for public education, including school facilities, is primarily a state and local matter. But while most states have tried to help poor local districts with basic operating expenses – such as paying teachers and buying supplies and materials – state support for school infrastructure has been much less reliable.

公共教育的資金,包括學校設施,主要是州和地方事務。但是,盡管大多數州都試圖用基本的運營開支來幫助貧困地區,比如支付教師工資和購買物資,但州政府對學校基礎設施的支持卻遠沒有那么可靠。



The $100 billion investment would also stimulate property values in communities where schools would be fixed. For all those reasons and more, passage of this bill should be a no-brainer.

這1000億美元的投資還將刺激學校所在社區的房地產價值。出于所有這些原因以及更多的原因,通過這項法案應該是一件無需動腦筋的事情。