The on-again, off-again courtship with federal education-infrastructure funding is on again.
Last month, the House passed the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, which commits more than $20 billion over the next five years to assist states in the building and renovation of schools. Proponents say the initiative, designed to make schools more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, could save institutions billions of dollars in energy costs and make facilities more healthful for building occupants.
While the Senate still must consider the initiative, the White House already has threatened a veto.
Education as a whole does not seem to be at the top of many politicians' agendas these days, which is discouraging to say the least — especially in a Presidential-election year, where education typically takes a more prominent role. The economy, geopolitical crises, healthcare and other issues continue to take center stage and overshadow education initiatives.
The school facilities act, if enacted, would provide funding starting in the 2009 budget year. Requirements for meeting the green standards would be phased in, and projects would have to meet either Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Collaborative For High Performance Schools or Energy Star standards.
While ultimate passage is a long shot in the current political climate, the initiative does tap in to the growing interest and acceptance of all things green, sustainable and energy-efficient. Especially as costs for construction, materials, energy, etc., continue to skyrocket, tying funding to life-cycle costing that such an initiative encourages ensures appropriate amounts are spent upfront to capture long-term savings, as well as other learning, health and environmental benefits.
Many schools and universities already have embraced the green movement. If you are looking to improve your institution's commitment to green, attend this summer's free Green Cleaning webinar series.
Agron is editor-in-chief of AS&U.