Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Historic New Bill Helps Schools Get Green,
and Kids Stay Healthy

--trends + business + politics--

Good news for our nations kids. The House of Representatives just passed legislation set to provide an impressive $7 billion in grants to help K-12 schools go green. Known as “21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act” (H.R. 3021), the bill, sponsored by Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY), will help schools to become more energy efficient and healthier. With a special emphasis on low-income schools, kids learning in the worst conditions stand most to gain.

I am so thrilled that Congress made this crucial investment today in education, our children and our future,” said U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY). "This bill is a home run. Not only will it provide vital money for our nation’s struggling schools, it will help the environment and stimulate the economy, creating jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.”

The legislation was passed by a vote of 250 to 164, on June 4. The decision allows the Secretary of Education to distribute funds to K-12 school districts according to a need-based formula, to make them more energy efficient, healthy, and "high performing." Funding can also be used for asbestos removal services, energy efficiency improvements, lead abatements, and technology upgrades. With an estimated 60 million students spending up to 40 hours a week in facilities that are often unhealthy - the bill ultimately impacts weather millions of kids get asthma or other respiratory illnesses, or not.

“This bill would help our teachers teach and our students learn, create jobs, and protect the environment,” said U.S. Rep. Dale E. Kildee (D-MI), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. “And, by providing the resources to ensure that students, teachers and principals have safe, healthy, modern, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly learning spaces, this bill would send children the message that we truly value every one of them.”

The bill will also help school districts, which are struggling to make essential improvements, to create better school facilities and save significant amounts of energy and help to reduce greenhouse gases. Thirty-nine percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and each green and energy efficient school will lead to annual emission reductions of 585,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) – the principal greenhouse gas.

In order to promote energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources in schools, the bill:

  • Calls for school districts to use funds to meet one of three widely recognized green building standards or equivalent state or local standards.’
  • 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.
  • Requires the Secretary of Education, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to create a database of the best practices in school construction and to provide technical assistance to states and school districts regarding best practices.

A green school costs less than two percent more than conventional schools - or about $3 per square foot – but provides financial benefits that are 20 times as large, typically utilizing 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than a traditionally designed school. Add that the cost savings of treating a lifetime of illness related to environmental contaminants and the solution is clear - protect our kids save us time, money and most importantly their well being.

(Source: Beyond Pesticides, Washington Watch, Open Congress)

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