If you’re lucky, you spend your days at a school that has clean air, bright daylit classrooms and is a comfortable and pleasant place to be. If you do, you’re also in the minority. Far too many Americans learn and work in schools with crumbling facilities that negatively impact the health, safety and performance of its students, teachers and staff.
A report released in March by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council estimates that $271 billion is needed to bring public schools in the United States up to working order and comply with the laws. That’s $5,450 for every of the nearly 100,000 public school students in the U.S. Adding modernization to this bill to meet the basic needs of students and teachers brings the total up to $542 billion.
These estimates are “best guesses” and are possibly on the low end; the report calls attention to the fact that it has been 18 years since the federal government conducted a comprehensive study of the condition of our nation’s public school facilities. The 1995 study revealed that an estimated 15,000 schools had air that was unfit to breathe! With the majority of schools still in use nearly two decades later, we aren’t optimistic that that number has decreased. The 5-page report explores the impact of school facilities on student behavior, health, education and communities.
The 2013 State of our Schools report, which features an inspiring introduction from President Bill Clinton, brings to light the fact that we are lacking critical data that allows us to address the safety, health, education and environmental challenges of our public school facilities. Better understanding would allow us to not only demonstrate that green schools can bring significant benefits to school and district facilities, but prove that we can invest school’s limited resources more efficiently, effectively and equitably.
Educators can support our efforts by raising awareness about the impact that the conditions of school facilities have on student performance and health. Join a local Green School Committee, work on the ground to improve community schools through our Green Apple Day of Service, earn a Green Classroom Professional Certificate, or connect with your local legislator on these important issues.
This isn’t a conversation about better buildings, it’s a conversation about delivering better education to our students, and ensuring that the places where they learn don’t make them sick, or in other ways jeopardize their future.