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Public school buildings around the country could receive billions of dollars for renovation and modernization under legislation recently approved by a House committee.
The House Education and Labor Committee passed the 21st Century High-Performing Public School Facilities Act – H.R. 3021 – introduced by U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Ky. The legislation would provide funding to states and school districts to help ensure school facilities and learning environments are safe, healthy, energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and technologically advanced.
H.R. 3021 would authorize $6.4 billion for school renovation and modernization projects for fiscal year 2009 and would ensure school districts quickly receive funds for projects that improve schools’ teaching and learning climates, health, safety, and energy efficiency. To further encourage energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources in schools, the bill would require most funds for school-improvement projects meet widely recognized green-building standards, and it would encourage states to help schools track their energy use and carbon footprints, among other things.
The bill also would provide additional support for Gulf Coast schools still recovering from damage caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Many of these schools still face hundreds of millions of dollars in damages caused by the hurricanes, and the legislation would authorize separate funds – half a billion dollars over five years – for schools 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 concluded 75 percent of schools were in various stages of disrepair and estimated it would take $127 billion to bring schools into overall good condition. A 2000 study by the National Education Association found schools would need $322 billion to become safe, well-constructed, and up-to-date technologically. A recent report by Building Educational Success Together concluded these previous studies underestimated school construction needs.