Although school may be the farthest thing from your children's mind this summer, your representatives in Congress are thinking about it. The truth is that many US schools are in dire need of repair, and most of them are very energy inefficient. My children's school still has asbestos tiles in some rooms, the roof is poorly insulated, and the heaters/AC are power suckers. If the H.R. 3021: 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act passes, this may change.
The Green Schools Act passed the House of Representatives last month by a vote of 250 to 164 and is now in the Senate. If passed into law, this bill would provide funding to make school facilities safe, healthy, energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and technologically up-to-date. U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA), a member of the Education and Labor Committee explained:
The condition of our nation’s school facilities can have an immense impact on the ability of our children to learn and the quality of education they receive. By improving our schools and making upgrades using green technology, this legislation will create new jobs and help improve student health, learning ability, and productivity.
Specifically, the bill encourages energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources in schools by providing 20 billion dollars in grants over five years.
- Calls for school districts to use funds to meet one of three widely recognized green building standards or equivalent state or local standards.
- Provides states with funding to develop a plan to create a statewide database of schools’ facilities, modernization and repair needs, energy use, carbon footprint, and a school energy efficiency quality plan.
- Allows school districts to waive the green building standards where circumstances make them impracticable, but ensures that at least 90 percent of funds will be used for green projects by 2013.
- Requires school districts to publicly report the educational, energy and environmental benefits of projects, how they meet green building standards, and the percentage of funds used for projects at low-income and rural schools.
My daughter attends a one room schoolhouse (grades k-8) with a total school population of seven students. I have often wondered about the indoor air quality and safety of my daughter's school. She had a runny nose for the entire school year. In kindergarten, I assumed her sniffles were the result of exposure to germs; however, when they returned her second year, I can't help but suspect an environmental cause. As a parent and a teacher, I have been working to replace the cleaning products and fertilizers at our school with organic, natural products. One hurdle I always encounter is funding, so I look forward to federal assistance to green our school should H.R. 3021 become law; however, the White House has vowed to veto this bill.
Image: Darren Hester on Flickr under a Creative Common License