In the first story, I didn't know this but the U.S. Census counts U.S. school children and activities associated with back to school. From the NY Times article:
The bureau estimated that 55 million students would be enrolled in pre-kindergarten through high school this fall, and that 11 percent would be in private schools. That total is up by about 16 percent from 20 years ago.
Also, in an alert from reader Steve, a NY Times editorial about our nation's crumbling infrastructure (including school buildings) and job creation.
Take, for example, Fix America’s Schools Today, or FAST, an idea that has been incorporated into a House proposal to be introduced this fall by Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois. Public school buildings in the United States are on average over 40 years old and in need of an estimated $500 billion in repairs and upgrades. A $50 billion school renovation program would employ 500,000 workers (1.5 million construction workers are currently unemployed) and could be easily scaled up. The money could be disbursed through existing federal formulas to all 16,000 public school districts. The initial cost could be largely offset over 10 years by ending tax breaks for fossil fuels, as called for in Mr. Obama’s 2012 budget.
Now that last line makes me laugh because Republicans would rather cut off a thumb than take away tax breaks (even though we've had them for the last 6+ years and I don't see any job creation coming from them). We have roads, bridges, etc. in this country that desperately need fixing. People need jobs. Seems like a good fit and didn't we do this with the WPA? That gave work to millions of workers AND we still are reaping some of the benefits today. (Roosevelt High's entrance has a mural done by a WPA artist.)
Appealing to public education needs and rundown schools should, in theory, appeal to lawmakers.
I took a quick look at Congresswoman Schakowsky's FAST idea and it looks good. It's certainly true that many districts have cut back on maintenance AND that we have a lot of old buildings in the system. (This is truly a reflection of SPS's state of our schools.)
This is NOT to rebuild but to modernization existing systems in the buildings which is better than doing nothing at all. The funds would go in the form of competitive grants based on percentage of poor children, need for repairs/renovation, energy savings, etc.