By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director
Here's a good article about green schools and why they make sense. Nothing really new, but it's put together well. In short, it offers three primary reasons for building green schools:
- Improve academic performance
- Save money
- Develop the next generation of environmental leaders
But in this economy can schools afford to go green? Experts like Dufault think we can and that too much is at stake not to, especially with government stimulus funding available to local communities to make such improvements. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed in February 2009 to help boost the country out of the economic crisis, allocated $53.6 billion to school modernization.Technically, this is correct. The stimulus package did pass, and it did make available money for school modernization. However, the missing piece is that this money was made available to schools primarily so they can plug budget gaps and prevent teacher layoffs -- the modernization money was part of a compromise that in the end, merely allowed this money to be used in this manner.
In fact, less than one percent of this funding is being used for modernization. And it's not because this isn't an important issue or because the need isn't there. The money isn't being used for modernization because schools need to plug their budget holes and keep their teachers teaching.
However, the story doesn't end there. Congress recognized that the facility investment piece is lacking so they submitted a stand-alone bill to specifically fund school modernization. This bill, the School Buildings Fairness Act of 2009 (S.1121), passed in the House and will be brought up in the Senate in the fall. (Check out Rochelle's recent blog for more details on this and a related bill.)
This legislation is important, and we need to see it pass so we can get these schools fixed, modernized, made green -- so they are safe, healthy places for our kids to spend their days.
To raise awareness of school building conditions, we're asking you to share stories and photos of your schools in the Through Your Lens photo and essay contest. Entries will inform the national debate around school building repair and will be shown at a special exhibit in Washington, DC (currently planned for the US Capitol building) while Congress considers this tremendously important legislation.