Building Accountability in California

Jeffrey M. Vincent, PhD, deputy director, Center for Cities + Schools, Institute of Urban and Regional Development


Center for Cities + Schools, Institute of Urban and Regional Development and the California Department of Education

Project Description

To inform state lawmakers on appropriate policies for K-12 school facility planning and design, this paper investigates standards in seven state policy areas (educational space, minimum essential facilities, indoor human comfort/environmental quality, school site size, planning process, maintenance, and charter schools) in ten case study states: California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. Identifying national trends in state standards for K-12 school facilities, we find that school facility standards advance four state interests:

  • State Interest #1.That children in the state attend public school facilities that adequately support the education program.
  • State Interest #2.To protect and/or advance the health of, safety of, and environmental quality for children and/or communities.
  • State Interest #3.That there are not gross facility disparities across the state that would disproportionately undermine the achievement of specific groups of students.
  • State Interest #4.That school districts design, build, and operate cost effective and efficient school facilities.

Drawing on lessons from the field, our recommendations are directed specifically to the California Department of Education, but applicable to all states:

  • States should maximize availability of facilities planning and design technical assistance to local school districts, to uphold state standards and leverage numerous benefits to the public/taxpayers. State agencies are uniquely positioned to play a technical assistance role to bring this value to all school districts.
  • States should regularly collect information on the conditions and qualities of all K-12 school facilities and grounds in the state. By collecting up-to-date information on school facility conditions and qualities, state leaders and the public have a way to know whether or not the various standards are having the desired effect(s).
  • States should conduct a public review and update of all K-12 facility standards every few years. State standards, guidelines and regulations for school facilities should be periodically reviewed and updated to reflect evolving industry best practice, new research findings, alignment to broader state infrastructure goals, and changing educational program emphases.
  • States should ensure there is adequate and equitable school facility spending to uphold standards. California policymakers can use state school facility funding and the standards in tandem to ensure that all children attend facilities that are safe, healthy, educational suitable and affordable to taxpayers.

Full Report can be found here:

Report Appendix can be found here: