"U.S. Government Accountability Office studies show that some 15,000 schools in the United States suffer from indoor air that is unfit to breathe. In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, conventional building materials and furnishings release toxic chemicals, volatile organic compounds, such as formaldehyde, and other substances to the air inside the school.
by James Parks, Jan 2, 2009
With Congress set to begin a new session this week, the AFT is putting the state of America’s school buildings on the agenda. As part of its two-year “Building Minds, Minding Buildings” campaign, the union recently released two new reports, one on “green” school buildings and the other on funding infrastructure projects.
The reports reinforce President-elect Barack Obama’s call to improve the physical and technological infrastructure of U.S. schools as part of a stimulus plan to jump-start the economy.
Says AFT President Randi Weingarten:
Our members across the country always have been actively involved in finding solutions and bringing attention to the issue of school infrastructure. These latest reports will provide them with some of the insights and information they need to continue their efforts.
The first report, Building Minds, Minding Buildings: Our Union’s Road Map to Green and Sustainable Schools, is a guide to building and maintaining schools in ways that are healthy, environmentally responsible and cost-efficient. The guide explains that creating green schools can improve the health and learning of teachers, staff and students and help fight global warming.
U.S. Government Accountability Office studies show that some 15,000 schools in the United States suffer from indoor air that is unfit to breathe. In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, conventional building materials and furnishings release toxic chemicals, volatile organic compounds, such as formaldehyde, and other substances to the air inside the school.
Mold spores, common in deteriorating schools with leaky roofs, along with other biological organisms add to this polluted mix, triggering allergies, and are suspected of increasing new cases of respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, which is the most common chronic illness among children under age 15. Asthma also is the leading cause of student absenteeism in schools, accounting for more than 14 million missed school days each year, according to the AFT.
Through both conservation and reliance on renewable energy sources, a green school can reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Higher ventilation rates in green schools dilute the concentration of indoor pollutants, as well as control humidity and temperature, which results in less mold and reduces the spread of viruses.
The second report, School Infrastructure Funding Need: A State-by-State Assessment and an Analysis of Recent Court Cases, tracks the current level of school infrastructure funding in all 50 states. The report shows that total school infrastructure funding need is substantial, totaling some $254.6 billion. It also makes policy recommendations to address funding needs at the federal and state levels, calling for, among other things, a new federal/state and local partnership to fund school infrastructure projects and immediate federal actions to address infrastructure inadequacies in schools attended by low-income students.
Click here to download the reports.
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