- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced last week that $15.7 million dollars in state funds will be used for emergency cleanup at some Philadelphia schools; these funds include $7.6 million to be used for lead abatement at 40 schools which serve about 29,000 children, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reports.
- The emergency cleanup funds come as a result of media exposure to the issue in “Toxic City: Sick Schools” a report by the Inquirer and Daily News. The coverage drew attention to the magnitude of the problem of lead paint and other hazardous issues in the School District of Philadelphia.
- While some of these issues will take months to correct, school officials are working to address as many of them as possible before school starts again in the fall.
While no school district wants negative press, the Inquirer and Daily News seems to have done the Philadelphia School District a favor by drawing attention to the issue of lead paint and other hazards present in schools. The state is now directing much-needed funding to the issue. Philadelphia, however, is not alone in facing the impacts of lead in schools. Some schools in New Jersey are also finding high levels of lead, which some critics blame on the misdirection of funds set aside for this purpose. Portland Public Schools in Oregon has also been dealing with this issue, which is one some observers feel will never go away .
While lead exposure is often found in older homes, many of the nation's schools are older as well and some still retain remnants of lead in paint or water systems. Though lead exposure is one of the most preventable childhood poisonings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 6% of all children ages 1 to 2, and 11% of black (non-Hispanic) children ages 1 to 5 have toxic blood lead level readings, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Lead exposure impacts children more than adults, sometimes resulting in health issues, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and a resulting increase in suspensions. Lead exposure also has adverse effects on adults working in the environment.
As school leaders work over the summer to renovate or address maintenance issues at schools, they need to be aware of potential lead dangers in their schools and begin to address them. Educators work hard to develop young minds, but their efforts are in vain if the school itself is contributing to learning delays.