AIA Pennsylvania Testifies at Senate Education Hearing on School Facilities

AIA Pennsylvania members and architects serving on the chapter’s School Construction Task Force, Michael Kelly, AIA, Principal with KCBA Architects and Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) School Safety and Security Committee (SSSC) Member, and Christopher Linkey, AIA, Partner with RLPS Architects, Task Force Co-Chair, testified at the Senate Education Committee’s public hearing on school facility assessments and data on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. Our testimony underscored the urgency of reinstating the Planning and Construction Workbook Program (PlanCon), the state’s dormant roadmap to economically and equitably invest in Pennsylvania’s public school infrastructure to ensure safe, accessible, and comfortable environments conducive to learning and teaching.

Thank you to Senator Argall and Senator Williams, Senate Education Committee Chairs, for the opportunity to share the architects’ expertise on school facility assessments to address the dire need for funding for Pennsylvania’s aging school infrastructure. And a special thanks to Senator Kearney, AIA, for his leadership on school facility investment as a member of the Senate Education Committee, Vice Chair of Appropriations, and sponsor of SB415, restarting PlanCon.

AIA Pennsylvania supports the reinstatement and funding of a modernized PlanCon program. We firmly believe the state must reimburse school construction and renovation, ensuring all school districts can provide appropriate facilities and safe and secure learning environments. Without PlanCon in place to provide professional expertise and checks and balances for our school districts, the more significant the risk of lack of oversight that will ultimately cost taxpayers more – financially and societally.

Appropriating PlanCon funding would allow school districts to apply for partial reimbursement for planning and construction costs approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Act 70 of 2019 simplified the PlanCon application process and created the Maintenance Program to cover critical repairs and maintenance to existing school facilities. Since 2012, there has been a series of moratoriums on PlanCon applications, and in 2016, the legislature ceased funding the program, leading to ongoing critical maintenance and project deferment documented across the state.

Architects guide and advocate for the interests of school boards and their communities during their construction processes. Navigating PlanCon and economical school facility investment is a part of that process. Most importantly, architects are uniquely qualified to design efficiency, safety, wellness, and longevity into our school facilities, which stand to generate social, economic, and environmental returns that far surpass initial fiscal costs.

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