Asumag 145 Outlook2009

Outlook 2009

Jan. 1, 2009
What's ahead for education facilities and business in the new year and beyond.

Change is coming.

For schools and universities, that's a safe prediction every year, but it's even more likely in 2009. Economic uncertainty is raising anxieties, tax coffers are dwindling, and budgets are collapsing, but the educational needs of students are just as urgent as ever.

Most education administrators will find it difficult to maintain the status quo, let alone find the resources to pursue innovations or expansions that can improve learning for students. Instead, they will have to make painful decisions about which programs and projects to cut, which jobs to eliminate, which facilities to close and which construction and renovation plans to put on hold.

At the same time, a change is coming in the relationship that the federal government has with local school districts and higher-education institutions. A new presidential administration and a new education secretary will take the reins of power and chart a revised course for education reform.

That could result in modifications to the No Child Left Behind Act, President George W. Bush's program that aimed to improve the American education system. President Bush and his supporters say the legislation has helped improve education and has made schools more accountable for their performance. Critics of the law say it has been underfunded, its provisions place too much emphasis on testing, and its sanctions against struggling schools are too punitive.

President-elect Barack Obama's campaign platform called for greater funding of No Child Left Behind, less reliance on standardized testing, and an accountability system that focuses more on supporting schools and less on punishing them.

Of course, those campaign promises were crafted before the dire state of the nation's economy became clear in weeks before the 2008 election. Those involved in education were hopeful that school-related issues would claim a place of prominence in the dialogue between Senators Obama and John McCain, but the cratering financial markets, the teetering state of the automobile industry and the increasing numbers of unemployed — not to mention the continuing military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan — kept education reform on the periphery of the presidential campaign.

Those same economic emergencies are certain to take priority at the outset of the Obama administration, and the economic actions carried out in the coming months will help determine whether schools and universities will have the resources to provide facilities and programs that offer effective instruction to the nation's millions of students.

And while decisionmakers in Washington, D.C., and state capitals work to navigate their way through economic troubles, administrators at schools and universities in 2009 will be expected, as always, to tackle the array of issues that confront them day in and day out — making sure they have enough classrooms to accommodate all students; constructing and renovating facilities to provide effective learning environments; ensuring those environments are secure, healthful and well-maintained spaces; providing safe and efficient transportation; and a host of other situations that pop up every day throughout the school year:

Outlook 2009 analysis


Many colleges and universities may have to deal with two contradictory perspectives on enrollment in 2009. On the one hand, the economic downturn has made it difficult for some students to afford the high tuition costs on many campuses. On the other hand, with the job market bleak, pursuing higher education is a more appealing option for young people, and many schools are reporting record sizes for their 2008-09 freshman classes.

Some examples: the total first-year enrollment at Indiana University in Bloomington for fall 2008 was 7,564 — the most ever; the University of Kansas in Lawrence had 4,483 first-time freshmen attending classes in the fall; The University of Colorado at Boulder reported a freshman class of 5,833.

Community colleges, many of which offer job re-training opportunities for displaced workers and generally are less expensive than four-year institutions, have seen their enrollments climb as well.

Even before the recession, government projections showed that enrollment in higher-education institutions was expected to climb over the next decade. The National Center for Education Statistics' "Projection of Education Statistics to 2017" forecasts that enrollment in two-year post-secondary schools will rise from 6,225,000 students in 2006 to 7,068,000 in 2017. At four-year institutions, the report projects a rise in enrollment from 6,955,000 students in 2006 to an estimated 7,874,000 in 2017.

At the K-12 level, the national trend is for slight increases in enrollment — 10.1 percent from 2005 to 2017, the government projections show. But when the figures are broken down by region, they show a wide disparity. States in the South are projected to see a 19.1 percent increase from 2005 to 2017, while Northeast states are projected to see an enrollment decline of 3.5 percent. In the West, Arizona is projected to have a 44.8 percent increase, and Nevada's projections show a 43.2 percent rise.

The enrollment decline in many large urban districts is forcing many school boards to close underutilized campuses.

Six schools in the Indianapolis district have been targeted for closing at the end of the school year. The Prince George's County (Md.) budget proposal calls for shutting down six schools in 2009. Seattle district officials have put forth a list of nine schools that are candidates for closing. The Pinellas County (Fla.) Board has voted to close seven schools in 2009. In Denver, traditional schools in underused facilities will begin sharing space with charter schools.

Return to the Outlook 2009 main page.

Or jump to an Outlook 2009 analysis:


Despite the relentlessly pessimistic news about the nation's finances, school construction proposals fared surprisingly well in ballot initiatives in 2008.

In New Jersey, 60 percent of the school bond proposals put before voters in 2008 won approval, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association. However, smaller requests were more successful; only 40.2 percent of the funds requested in bond elections were approved.

In November, just in California, three school districts and a community college district each won approval of construction proposals in excess of $1 billion: a $7 billion request in the Los Angeles Unified School District; a $3.5 billion proposal in the Los Angeles Community College District; a $2.1 billion package in the San Diego Unified School District, and a $1.2 billion plan in the Long Beach Unified School District.

The success wasn't limited to the Golden State. Voters in Denver passed a $454 million bond proposal; the Wichita (Kan.) district won approval of a $370 million package; the Lexington 1 (S.C.) district persuaded voters to back a $336 million request; Round Rock (Texas) district voters authorized a $294 million building proposal; Indianapolis voters approved a $278 million plan.

Earlier in the year, districts in Texas approved huge bond proposals: $1.35 billion in Dallas; $697 million in Lewisville; $647 million in Klein; $526 million in Conroe; $490 million in Plano.

Some school districts were scared away from the ballot box by the bad economy. The Clark County (Nev.) District, the nation's fifth-largest system and still growing steadily, had a $9.5 billion building plan ($7 billion in bonds, and $2.5 billion in hotel and real-estate transfer taxes) that it wanted to put before voters in November 2008. However, in July, board members decided the request faced an uphill battle and pulled it from the ballot. The district is expected to come back to voters with a proposal in 2010.

The stakeholders in each district have to decide whether 2009 will be the right time to pursue construction through a tax election. The Tacoma (Wash.) district has placed a $300 million request on the ballot in March; that same month, the Henry County (Ga.) district will ask voters to approve a $256 million construction plan.

Additional help for schools that need to build and renovate their facilities may come from what, until recently, has been a reluctant source of construction funds — the federal government. Officials in the incoming Obama administration have specifically mentioned school construction as the kind of projects that would be key parts of the economic stimulus package that Congress is expected to consider soon.

Such projects would provide construction jobs and inject spending into local economies, and they would result in more appealing and effective learning environments for students.

Congress already has taken steps to become more involved in improving education facilities. In 2008, the U.S. House passed legislation that called for spending $6.4 billion in fiscal 2009 on school renovation and modernization. The Senate took no action in 2008 on the bill, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, but lawmakers may consider it again in 2009.

Because of ongoing economic troubles, schools and universities that embark on construction projects should make sure the money is being spent wisely and that their constituents have a clear understanding of the purpose of any upgraded facilities.

"People say if we're going to spend our tax money, we want to get a return on our investment," says Dennis Young, president of Wm. B. Ittner, an architectural firm in St. Louis. "We have to be extremely sensitive listeners."

Administrators and designers can increase the likelihood that taxpayers will embrace a project if they are kept informed and their opinions are considered.

"We try to ascertain what the community is thinking much more than ever before," says Young. "When you're trying to pass a referendum, you don't want people saying, ‘You only talk to me when you need something.’"

With fewer construction projects on the market, schools and universities can seek out the best firms to design and build their facilities, Young says. Institutions also are in a position to demand use of durable, sustainable materials that have an "economic payback" over the life of a facility.

Because of the economic downturn, the trend of finding partners or joint tenants for a facility shared by schools and the community makes more sense than ever.

Return to the Outlook 2009 main page.

Or jump to an Outlook 2009 analysis:

The economy

As 2008 drew to a close, scarcely a day went by without another gloomy report on the nation's economy: investment firms and banks going belly up; credit markets in shambles; the once-vibrant auto industry begging for billion-dollar bailouts to survive.

The recession hasn't relieved schools and universities of any of their responsibilities, but it has deprived them of the resources they need to carry out their main responsibility: preparing the nation's children to be wise and productive members of the workforce and society.

Average per-pupil spending in public schools was $9,138 in 2005-06, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2017-18, the average per-pupil cost is projected to climb to between $10,762 and $12,212.

But in 2009, at least, the money needed to pay for the expected rise in education costs is hard to find. School districts, universities and colleges from coast to coast face budget shortfalls because of declining tax revenue and cuts in state funding.

In December 2008, in "The Fiscal Survey of States," the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers found that in fiscal 2008, state general fund spending grew by 5.3 percent, which was less than the 31-year average of 6.3 percent. The news for fiscal 2009 was worse — state spending is expected to decrease by 0.1 percent.

"This substantially lower rate of growth is the result of a weakening economy," the report's executive summary states. "States are forecasting declining economic growth and expect to make significant budget cuts in the coming fiscal years."

Because so much of state funding goes to K-12 schools and higher-education institutions, districts and colleges are having to bear the brunt of the budget shortfalls.

In addition, large universities that have bolstered their fiscal position by building donations into sizable endowments are seeing the value of those funds shrink as stocks plummet in value. Yale University in New Haven, Conn., reported at the end of 2008 that its endowment was valued at $17 billion and had declined in value by 25 percent since June 2008. Yale President Richard Levin stated in a letter to university employees that the decline "has a very significant impact on our operations because income from the endowment supports 44 percent of the University's annual expense base of $2.7 billion."

Levin announced spending cuts and freezes in several areas. With regard to construction, buildings and renovation projects already under construction will be completed. But most other projects will be delayed "until the conditions in debt markets permit going forward or additional gift funding can be secured."

"We will also continue both design and fundraising for the new residential colleges with the hope that we can keep to the current schedule, but postponement may become necessary," Levin wrote in his letter.

School districts also must absorb the economic pain passed on by cash-poor state governments. Many have curtailed spending and cut programs to keep their budgets in line. For others, the current economic conditions have crippled what already was a struggle to survive. The financial difficulties of Detroit's Big Three automobile industry have been front-page news, but the condition of that city's school system is almost as dire. The Detroit school system has closed many campuses in recent years as its enrollment has dropped steadily. This fall, the district disclosed that it was facing a deficit of more than $400 million. The school board fired the superintendent it hired 18 months earlier, as well as the district's chief financial officer. As the year ended, the state superintendent of public instruction was trying to decide if he would intervene and take over the school system's finances. (See update here.)

In the short term, financial help for schools and universities may be on the way in the form of an economic stimulus package that the Obama administration is preparing to bring before Congress soon after the Jan. 20 inauguration. The incoming administration had not settled on the extent of the spending proposal, but some political observers say it could ask for as much as $1 trillion. It is expected to include projects for upgrading the nation's infrastructure, including school facilities.

Return to the Outlook 2009 main page.

Or jump to an Outlook 2009 analysis:


Anyone who has experienced the volatility of gas prices in recent months would be hesitant to forecast what will happen with fuel prices in 2009. The American School Bus Council estimates that the nation's school bus fleet uses 822 million gallons of fuel a year, so the roller-coaster climbs and dips in prices can leave transportation officials a little queasy.

In mid-2008, with gasoline prices cresting above $4 a gallon, fuel prices were wreaking havoc on school budgets. Now as schools welcome students back after winter break, those prices have been cut by more than half, but because of the shaky condition of school budgets, administrators would be wise to continue to search for ways to trim their transportation costs.

In the Orange County (Fla.) district, officials tried to squeeze more out of its transportation budget by starting high school later and middle school earlier. The switch enabled the districts to run routes more efficiently, and officials were hoping they could save as much as $15 million in capital and operating costs.

But the outcry from parents and students who did not like the schedule switch wore down the school board, and it has decided to return to the old schedule in the 2009-10 school year. That means the district will have to look at other ways to trim its budget, and that could mean cutting transportation, as many other districts have done.

In the San Marcos (Calif.) Unified School District, the board voted last spring to eliminate bus transportation, which provided daily rides for 2,700 students. Many other districts have curtailed service or imposed fees for bus rides, when the law allows. Slashing bus service can relieve the burden on education budgets, but when bus-less students live where it is too far or too dangerous to walk to school, the environment can suffer.

The bus council says that when one bus route is eliminated, it takes an average of 36 cars to transport the students who rode that bus. That's a lot of additional exhaust spewing from tail pipes.

Many schools are encouraging students to walk to school when conditions permit, and several districts have converted some of their bus fleet to biodiesel or other hybrid fuel systems that reduce energy costs and release less pollution into the air.

Return to the Outlook 2009 main page.

Or jump to an Outlook 2009 analysis:

Class size

The money crunch may lead many school districts to take another look at class sizes in 2009. Many states and local districts have adopted class-size limits or guidelines for the maximum number of students in a classroom. Studies have indicated that students learn more effectively and teachers perform better when there are fewer students.

However, reducing class size has a clear cost — fewer students mean more teachers, which means more salaries to pay. So as schools across the nation are confronted with dismal financial futures and projected deficits, administrators may be tempted to ease the rules that govern class size.

Many states and local districts have begun to look at increasing class size as a way of finding budget savings. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue urged the state board of education in October to grant all reasonable requests for waivers from class-size requirements. Education officials in Hawaii were considering a proposal that would save $9.7 million by increasing average class size by one student in grades 3 to 12. The Clark County (Nev.) district was looking at boosting class sizes in primary grades to trim $15 million from its budget.

In New York City, the state department of education found in September that the city did not achieve its 2007-08 class-size-reduction targets, and the further funding cuts that have been proposed by Gov. David Paterson will make it more difficult for those goals to be met.

Return to the Outlook 2009 main page.

Or jump to an Outlook 2009 analysis:


For years, environmentalists and conservation advocates have preached to school and university administrators the benefits that can be gained from reducing energy consumption. For those institutions that have not been convinced of the importance of conserving energy, the wobbly state of the economy in 2009 could make the argument for more efficient energy use more persuasive.

Aside from personnel, "education institutions" is the largest item in school budgets, and schools scrambling to deal with reduced revenues and program cuts may want to focus on their energy expenditures for potential savings.

In "School Operations and Maintenance: Best Practices for Controlling Energy Costs," the U.S. Department of Energy says that energy can be reduced significantly by "effectively managing, maintaining, and operating school physical plants, regardless of school age."

Many energy-saving steps available to schools are well-known. Daylighting strategies can illuminate a facility with natural light and reduce a school's expenditures for artificial light. Facilities that are insulated properly can get by with smaller and less costly heating, cooling and air-conditioning systems.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has put together The Advanced Energy Design Guide for K-12 School Buildings to help education institutions build facilities that are 30 percent more energy-efficient than current industry standards.

"By using energy efficiently and lowering a school's energy bills, millions of dollars each year can be redirected into facilities, teachers' salaries, computers, and textbooks," the guide states.

The guide specifies eight essential steps to achieving energy savings in K-12 facilities:

  • School district buy-in. "The more (district leaders and staff) know about and participate in the planning and design process, the better they will be able to help achieve the 30 percent goal," the guide says.

  • Experienced, innovative design team.

  • Integrated design approach. Cost-effective, energy-efficient design requires tradeoffs among potential energy-saving features. The greater the energy savings, the more complicated the trade-offs become and the more design team members must work together to determine the optimal mix of energy-saving features.

  • Daylighting consultant. If the design team does not have experience with a well-balanced daylighting design, it may need to add a daylighting consultant.

  • Energy modeling. Energy modeling programs that simulate hourly operation of a building and provide annual energy-usage data make evaluating energy-saving tradeoffs faster and far more precise.

  • Building commissioning. Studies have shown that building systems often are installed improperly and do not operate as efficiently as expected. Building commissioning is a way to ensure that all building systems perform as intended.

  • Training for building users and operations staff. A building's designers and contractors normally are not responsible for the school after it becomes operational, so the school district must establish a continuous training program that helps occupants, and operations and maintenance (O&M) staff maintain and operate the school for maximum energy efficiency.

  • Monitoring the building. A monitoring plan is necessary to ensure that energy goals are met over the life of the building. Buildings that do not meet the design goals often have operational issues that should be corrected.

The guide provides specific recommendations based on the eight U.S. climate zones identified by the U.S. Department of Energy. The categories covered include roofs, walls, floors, doors, vertical fenestration, interior finishes, interior lighting and the type of HVAC system.

Return to the Outlook 2009 main page.

Or jump to an Outlook 2009 analysis:

New leadership

Public elementary and secondary schools have become accustomed in the last several years to more federal involvement in their efforts to educate children. The transition to a new presidential administration in 2009 is likely to bring changes in that involvement. Local educators are hoping that the federal mandates imposed on schools come with increased funding so the federal standards can be met.

The most visible sign of change at the federal level is the appointment of Chicago Public Schools' CEO Arne Duncan as the next U.S. Secretary of Education.

Duncan has received mostly positive reviews for his performance as head of Chicago's public school system — the nation's third largest with more than 400,000 students. In addition, as Obama's friend and neighbor of several years, he has a relationship that could give him more influence than other education secretaries have had in recent administrations.

The 44-year-old graduate of Harvard University has been the CEO of the Chicago school system since 2001, when he replaced Paul Vallas. Duncan joined the district in 1998 and served as director of magnet programs and deputy chief of staff under Vallas. Before being hired by the school district, Duncan directed The Ariel Initiative, a program that provides educational opportunities in economically disadvantaged areas of Chicago.

The two congressional committee chairmen with whom Duncan will work to craft education policy spoke highly of the appointment.

U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, says: "As the head of Chicago's public schools, he has an impressive track record in turning around failing schools, increasing graduation rates, and significantly boosting student achievement. He has dramatically improved teacher quality and effectiveness, by working with the local teachers union to establish a performance pay system and by providing mentoring and career ladders for teachers."

U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, also was enthusiastic about the selection.

"Arne has been a pragmatic and effective leader of Chicago's schools," Kennedy says. "He's brought people together to address difficult challenges and expand opportunities so that every child can succeed. I'm confident he'll be an impressive advocate for (Obama's) education agenda in the coming years."

Even the woman he is succeeding praises his selection.

"Arne Duncan is a visionary leader and fellow reformer who cares deeply about students," says Margaret Spellings, who served as secretary from 2005 to 2009. "As the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, Arne has advanced policies to hold schools accountable for providing all our nation's students — regardless of race, income level or background — with a high-quality education."

The coming year is expected to bring about changes in the education reforms that began under President George W. Bush. The No Child Left Behind Act was praised widely when it became law in 2002, but in the intervening years, many educators and local officials have turned against it. Many states have filed suit against the federal government, arguing that the law requires states to carry out certain reforms, but does not provide sufficient funding so that states can meet the mandates.

The call for changing No Child Left Behind was widespread in 2008, but the issue never gained much traction in Congress or during the presidential campaign.

From his perch in Chicago, Duncan has supported No Child Left Behind, but he has called for greater flexibility in the law.

"Congress should maintain NCLB's framework of high expectations and accountability," Duncan told a U.S. House committee hearing in 2006. "But it should also amend the law to give schools, districts and states the maximum amount of flexibility possible."

He also called for more funding for education reform.

"Funding education is simply the best long-term investment Congress can make," Duncan testified. "Money invested now will pay us back for decades …. My challenge (to Congress) is this: double the funding for NCLB within five years."

In his campaign, Obama also pledged to spend an additional $10 billion a year on early-childhood-education programs, and Duncan also is considered to be a strong advocate of early-childhood education.

Return to the Outlook 2009 main page.

Or jump to an Outlook 2009 analysis:


One issue that won't fade from the consciousness of school and university administrators in 2009 is the importance of providing a safe and secure environment for students and staff. Each year, education institutions strive to bolster campus safety and mitigate threats that could lead to violence and tragedy.

In 2008, the deadly Valentine's Day attack by a gunman at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb brought back painful memories of the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, the worst mass killing ever on a U.S. college campus. At Northern Illinois, a former student with a history of mental illness and armed with several weapons entered a large lecture hall and opened fire into a crowd of students. Six people, including the gunman, were killed, and 18 were wounded.

An emergency-message system alerted students and staff on campus that a shooting had occurred and continued to transmit messages throughout that day to keep people informed of the situation. Many college campuses had instituted such systems following the Virginia Tech massacre. Virginia Tech's response to the 2007 shooting spree was criticized because the school did not alert others on campus in a timely manner about the initial shootings.

Because of the diverse activity on a campus and the wide area that needs to be covered, colleges have sought emergency warning systems that disseminate information through many channels, such as voice mail, cell phones or landlines, e-mail, text messages, campus message boards and loudspeakers.

Horrible incidents such as the Virginia Tech or the Columbine killings in 1999 can prod schools and universities to re-evaluate and update their crisis-managements plans. But many education institutions still display an "it can't happen here" attitude and consequently may be unprepared if an emergency occurs on their watch in 2009.

In 2008, the Associated Press reported that nearly 10 years after Georgia passed a law requiring school systems to receive state approval of their security plans, about 20 percent of the state's districts had not complied with the law. The law calls for districts to have a plan that addresses acts of violence or terrorism, natural disasters, hazardous materials and radiological incidents.

In recent years, school districts have been able to complement their own security patrols with resource officers, sworn police personnel from local departments that are assigned to schools. Having an officer on regular duty at a school gives him or her the opportunity to develop a relationship with students and staff, and has been credited with preventing incidents and breaking down the wall of suspicion between students and law enforcement.

But as the governments struggle to stay within their shrinking budgets, funding cuts — either by local police departments or the schools themselves — may result in fewer institutions with resource officers in 2009. Several schools lost their resource officers in 2008 because of cutbacks.

Return to the Outlook 2009 main page.

Or jump to an Outlook 2009 analysis:


In a short time, technology in schools has gone from an exotic rarity to standard equipment. Virtually every U.S. school has Internet connections. Now schools and universities are using broadband and wireless systems to make Internet access faster and more flexible than ever.

Millions of college students each year enroll in distance-education courses, and online courses have grown in popularity at the elementary and secondary level, says a National Center for Education Statistics report on technology-based distance-education courses.

"Rapid technological developments and widespread availability of the Internet in public schools has made online education increasingly accessible and common among schools and districts," the report's executive summary states. "Also, although postsecondary institutions are the leading providers of technology-based distance education to public school districts and schools, districts themselves increasingly provide technology-based distance education courses to students."

As educators see the opportunities for learning that take place outside the formal confines of a classroom, the ability to gain access to information at any time or place enables students and teachers to seize the moment when inspiration strikes.

Many schools now have mobile carts of wireless-enabled laptops that can be rolled from classroom to classroom, freeing up teachers and students whose technology schedule had been bound to a rigid computer lab schedule. Online digital textbooks enable students to have access to their course materials wherever they have Internet access. Digital textbooks also lighten the load in student backpacks, which can become so heavy they create health risks.

Other high-tech gadgets are enhancing students' opportunities to learn. Interactive whiteboards enable instructors to display material prominently for students to see. Students or teachers can use a pen or even a finger to add data to the display, which can be saved on a computer. Personal responders, also known as clickers, are another way to boost student participation in class activities. The devices are given to each student in a classroom so they can respond to questions. The students' answers to these "instant polls" are compiled immediately and can be displayed graphically or stored for subsequent review.

This generation of students increasingly views technology such as cell phones, iPods and mp3 players, You Tube videos and social networking sites as a routine part of their lives, and schools and universities are learning how to incorporate those technologies into their education strategies.

But educators have to be cautious as they venture into untested areas. As 2009 began, the Madison (Ohio) School Board was debating whether it should prohibit text messaging between teachers and students. The question arose after a coach and teacher was fired and subsequently sentenced to three years in prison for a sexual crime that was discovered when an adult reported the coach had been inappropriately text messaging a girl.

Some board members believe texting from teachers to students is inappropriate and unnecessary, given the other avenues of communication that are available. But others argue that text messages are a legitimate, convenient and increasingly popular way to communicate, especially for students.

Return to the Outlook 2009 main page.

Or jump to an Outlook 2009 analysis:


With the transition to a more environmentally friendly president and administration in 2009, the momentum for sustainable design and construction of school facilities is likely to continue.

Many states and local districts have enacted design and construction guidelines that require environmentally friendly and energy-efficient systems and operations. Organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council, which administers the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program, and the Collaborative for High-Performance Schools (CHPS), which also has a green building rating system, have made great strides in bringing the terms green building, high-performance schools and sustainable design into the mainstream of the education community.

As of December, the green building council had a list of more than 1,000 school construction projects that had registered their intent to seek LEED certification. Many of those green schools will be completed in 2009, and more are sure to be added to the list.

Congress provided another impetus for green school construction in 2008, when the House passed the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act. The Senate did not take action on the bill, and President Bush threatened to veto the measure, but if lawmakers take up the legislation again, it is expected to win a more favorable response from an Obama White House.

In addition to calling for an infusion of federal money for school construction — $6.4 billion in the first year and more than $20 billion over five years — the bill outlined specific requirements for incorporating green design and construction into the federally subsidized projects.

In the first year of funding, school systems would have to spend at least 50 percent of the money they receive on green facility projects. The requirement would increase by 10 percent each year; by the fifth year, schools would be required to spend 90 percent of the money from the bill on green projects.

The bill defined green projects as ones that "are certified, verified, or consistent with any applicable provisions" of established green and high-performance programs, such as LEED, CHPS, the federal government's Energy Star program, or equivalent programs adopted by states or local entities.

On the university level, the green movement also is flourishing. More and more campuses are adding sustainability directors to their staffs to show their commitment to improving conservation and environmental awareness.

More than 600 presidents of U.S. higher-education institutions have signed the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment that calls for administrators to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make their campuses carbon-neutral.

Kennedy, staff writer, can be reached at [email protected].

Return to the Outlook 2009 main page.

Or jump to an Outlook 2009 analysis:

Sponsored Recommendations

How to design flexible learning spaces that teachers love and use

Unlock the potential of flexible learning spaces with expert guidance from school districts and educational furniture providers. Discover how to seamlessly integrate adaptive ...

Blurring the Lines in Education Design: K–12 to Higher Ed to Corporate America

Discover the seamless integration of educational and corporate design principles, shaping tomorrow's leaders from kindergarten to boardroom. Explore innovative classroom layouts...

Room to Learn: Furniture Solutions for Education

Preparing students for the future. Utilizing our experience in the education market, we offer a dynamic selection of products that pair technology with furniture to help stimulate...

Transforming Education: A Case Study in Progressive Classroom Design

Discover how Workspace Interiors and the Baldwin School District reshaped learning environments in Long Island, New York, creating pedagogically responsive spaces that foster ...