Recent teacher protests in Chicago show that students and parents suffer when public employee unions and elected officials fight over how to run schools. But there is one issue that should unite both sides: Tapping private sector capital to build schools—whether traditional or alternative—and other education-related infrastructure, leaving more public dollars for the instructional needs of children. Yonkers, a school district in New York State, is doing just that by deploying a solution that has worked well for transportation and other types of public infrastructure: Public-private partnerships (PPPs).
Schools matter. Children spend thousands of hours in them, so the existence of adequate facilities and learning environments within them is important for academic success. Most school districts can't self-finance facilities up-front because they need new and/or improved capacity right now. But where's the money going to come from? Unlike roads, water treatment or other infrastructure assets, traditional public schools don't generate revenue for themselves. And with local governments struggling with declining property taxes and taxpayers unwilling to approve new tax and/or bond measures, school districts need creative new solutions to generate capital for new and modernized K-12 school facilities.