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House Gives Green Light to Federal Green Schools Bill


The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a $6.4 billion school modernization bill, The 21st Century Green High Performing Public School Facilities Act, (H.R. 2187),  that would pay for energy efficiency in new school construction and school modernization projects. The measure passed overwhelmingly, 275-155 (mostly along party lines) as is now with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The estimated state grant for California would be  more than $671 million, according to the House Education and Labor Committee, whose website also lists estimates of funding going to school districts. The highest amount, over $170 million, would go to LAUSD, but smaller districts would also benefit, including Long Beach Unified ($17 million), Fresno Unified (almost $20 million), Oakland ($10 million), San Bernardino County Unified (almost $19 million) and Sacramento City Unified (almost $9 million).

Funding will extend through 2015. According to Rep. George Miller (D-California), chairman of the Education and Labor Committee and a sponsor of the bill, the legislation makes schools part of the effort to revive the U.S. economy and fight global warming by creating clean energy jobs that will help put workers in hard-hit industries back to work. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the legislation would support 136,000 new jobs.

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. schools a “D” on its national infrastructure report card for this year. A recent report by the American Federation of Teachers estimates it would cost almost $255 billion to fully renovate and repair all the schools in the country.

To further encourage energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources in schools, the legislation would require a percentage of funds be used for school improvement projects that meet widely recognized green building standards. The percentage of funds that must go towards green projects will increase each year, starting at 50 percent in 2010 and reaching 100 percent by 2015.

Responding to a question from CNN, Rachel Gutter, schools sector manager for the U.S. Green Building Council, which supports the bill, said that “The typical green school saves $100,000 a year on direct operating expenses. In school terms, that’s enough to hire two new teachers, purchase 200 new computers or 5,000 textbooks.”

“These are major savings, Gutter said. “[The investment] pays for itself after a few years of operation.”

“All students and teachers deserve safe and healthy learning environments, but too often, their schools are literally falling apart,” said Congressman Miller. “This legislation is a victory for students, workers and our planet. It will help improve educational opportunities and boost student achievement, it will help transition us toward a green economy by making our classrooms more environmentally-friendly, and it will get Americans back to work by creating good-paying, clean energy jobs.”

Source: Raquel Palmese


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