Common Sense Institute Arizona Releases Report on School Facilities & the Accumulation of District Space Since 2007

Published by The Bee News

February 3, 2023

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Report finds district school enrollment has decreased almost 10% while total school building square footage has increased substantially

PHOENIX – Today, Common Sense Institute Arizona (CSI) released a comprehensive report on Arizona school facilities and the accumulation of district space from before the Great Recession in 2007 to 2022.

“The purpose of this report is to highlight all of the additional space Arizona has available to address key issues facing our communities,” said CSI Executive Director Katie Ratlief. “Whether it’s strengthening public education or addressing the state’s housing shortage, we have a lot of excess, unmaintained space that could be used for public benefit.”

Since the creation of the Schools Facilities Oversight Board (SFB) in 1998, CSI finds that Arizona school districts have built 324 new buildings and added 23.7 million square feet of space. Put together, CSI estimates that Arizona public school districts would be the fifth largest private landowner in the state.

What’s more, CSI reports that school enrollment trends have not recovered since the pandemic resulting in a decline of 30,000 public school students since 2020. Based on further analysis, CSI approximates the value of all vacant and excess space in district schools to be $3.3 billion dollars.

And between 2007 and 2022, district school enrollment has decreased by 9% while the total square footage of school buildings has increased by 15%.

“We found, due to SFB’s current scope of practice – only being able to mandate school buildings and add subsequent educational facilities and not manage vacant space or offload unused buildings – school districts have overbuilt and over accumulated assets,” said CSI Director of Policy and Research Glenn Farley, “these spaces could be used towards affordable housing and other projects that could benefit the state’s economy and budget.”

“With recent enrollment declines and added school space, lawmakers must think carefully about how to handle this situation more effectively and prudently as we address other issues like housing supply shortages and water resiliency,” said Research Analyst Kamryn Brunner.

To learn more about Arizona’s school facilities and accumulation of space, please visit the CSI Arizona website and read the report here.

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