Letter to Senator Frank Lautenberg supporting his High Performance Green Buildings Act
May 14, 2007
Dear Senator Lautenberg:
On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to express our support for the High Performance Green Buildings Act (S. 506). This critical legislation will help strengthen public education by creating safer, healthier teaching and learning environments.
Every day, 53 million children in grades K-12 and the 6 million adults who serve them enter school buildings to teach, learn and work. And every day, half (57,500) of those very buildings have problems associated with poor indoor environmental quality (IEQ). According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 50 percent of America's public schools are in need of major repair or renovation. Schools are often sited next to industrial plants or on abandoned landfills. New schools are built beyond safe walking or biking distance for students. In a recent five-state survey, more than 1,100 public schools were built within a half-mile of a toxic waste site. Polluted indoor air, toxic chemical and pesticide use, growing molds, lead in paint and drinking water, and asbestos also impact the health of our nation's students and school staff.
Poor IEQ is linked to a wide range of illnesses including asthma, headaches, upper respiratory infections, and dizziness. In addition, studies show that poor IEQ reduces student and staff performance. In contrast, studies show that energy-efficient facilities designed for air quality, good lighting and acoustics, and ease of maintenance are associated with attendance, academic performance, and productivity.
Deferred maintenance and improper construction and renovation practices (including the use of substandard materials and unskilled labor) play a major role in the prevalence of unhealthy schools. Unfortunately, school districts faced with the need to renovate or repair a school facility often proceed based solely on the lowest cost estimate (using low-bid labor and materials), rather than taking into account the need to improve IEQ.
By creating an office of High-Performance Green Buildings to coordinate research and development on ways for government buildings to become "green," sustainable and healthy, S. 506 will ensure that school districts have the information and assistance they need to ensure every student the safest, healthiest learning environment. We thank you for your leadership on this important issue and we look forward to continuing to work with you to fulfill every child's basic right to a great public school.
Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations
Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy