Investigation of school-level relationships in school capital infrastructure investment needs in Tennessee

Chipo Maringa, Tennessee State University


Capital investment in K-12 infrastructure is one of the key dimensions of equity in school finance, along with the more widely-studied measure of per-pupil operating expenditure. The objective of this study is to investigate relationships between anticipated capital investment needs in public school facilities and schools' socioeconomic characteristics in Tennessee. These relationships were investigated using a novel dataset including the estimated costs of needed capital improvements and overall school building condition ratings at the building level for the entire state for four years: 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. Results from the probit analyses indicated the importance of drilling down into school facility improvements subtype cost estimates rather than focusing only on total cost estimate. The share of non-white students was associated with a higher likelihood of federal mandate cost; and conversely lower likelihood of technology and total cost estimates. Urban status raises the likelihood of total and upgrade cost estimates, and in contrast, lower chance of favorable school building condition rating. The poverty indicator–share of students on free and reduced lunch – was not a significant measure. School building age was shown to be a vital control to include, as it was most consistently associated with higher likelihood of all types of capital improvement cost estimates and lower chance of a favorable school building condition rating. The conclusion drawn from this study was that after controlling for the age of school buildings, county or city ownership, and school size (enrolled students), systematic differences still exist in the distribution of estimated capital needs of specific types for educational facilities within Tennessee districts. School-level differences in specific types of educational facilities cost estimates are related to race/ethnicity and locale (urban/rural). School-level disparities in the condition of school buildings are related to locale. These disparities are masked if only combined district-level facility improvement needs are assessed and compared between districts. Further research would be needed to determine whether these differences in estimated capital needs reflect on-the-ground disparities in facilities priorities, but this research is a first step, and makes a contribution by using building-level data to look at capital patterns within districts.

Subject Area

Education finance|Public administration|Public policy

Recommended Citation

Chipo Maringa, "Investigation of school-level relationships in school capital infrastructure investment needs in Tennessee" (2013). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3612225.