House Bill Would Fund Billions in Green School Renovations
May 2008 - Facilities Management
A new bill that could provide billions in school renovation and reconstruction dollars to state and local school districts has been approved by the House Education and Labor Committee.
The 21st Century High-Performing Public School Facilities Act (H.R. 3021), introduced by U.S. Rep Ben Chandler (D-KY), passed by a vote of 28 to 19.
H.R. 3021 would authorize $6.4 billion for school renovation and modernization projects for fiscal year 2009, and would ensure that school districts receive funds for projects that improve schools’ teaching and learning climates, health and safety, and energy efficiency.
The bill would still need approval of the full House and Senate before moving on to either be approved or vetoed by President Bush. A similar bill died in the 109th Congress.
To encourage energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources in schools, the bill would require that the majority of funds for school improvement projects meet widely recognized green building standards and would encourage states to help schools track their energy use and carbon footprints.
In the Gulf Coast, where public schools still face hundreds millions of dollars in damages caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the legislation would authorize separate funds – half a billion dollars over five years – for schools still trying to recover.
Recent estimates highlight the extreme funding shortfalls facing schools in need of physical improvement. In 2000, the National Center for Education Statistics said it would take $127 billion to bring schools into overall good condition, concluding that 75 percent of schools were in various stages of disrepair.
A 2000 study by the National Education Association found that $322 billion would be needed to make all schools “safe, well-constructed,” and “up-to-date” technologically. And a recent report by Building Educational Success Together concluded that these previous studies underestimated school construction needs.