Hearing on Green Schools: Environmental Standards for Schools
Good morning. I would like to begin by thanking our witnesses–both for being here today, and for your dedication to promoting green schools.
I also understand that we have parents of school children in our audience who have a personal interest in today’s hearing. I appreciate, and am sorry for, the unfortunate experiences that bring you here today.
The statistics are truly alarming.
! More than 14 million children attend schools with an environmental problem.
! More than $320 billion will be needed to bring schools up to healthy standards nationwide. If the Federal government fully funded its share of special education programs, the localities would have the ability to provide more funding for green schools.
! More than 1,100 public schools are built within a half-mile of a toxic waste site. The statement of Lois Gibbs, who is with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, will discuss, in our second panel, the undeserved struggles of parents in these communities.
I am very disturbed by this information.
With all the concerns plaguing today’s parents, the health of a child’s school should not be an issue. Parents should be assured that the building and location in which their child spends the majority of his or her time is safe and healthy. It is distressing that any child should be confronted with possible developmental impairment as a result of the school he or she attends.
I am pleased that EPA is here with us today. It seems that EPA is doing more than any other federal agency in the area of healthy schools.
I look forward to hearing more about EPA’s initiatives, such as the “Tools for Schools” program.
I am, however, sorry that the Departments of Education and Energy could not be with us today. I hope to work with the Department of Education in the coming months. I also hope the Department of Energy becomes more engaged in green school initiatives.
I recognize and appreciate the local nature of issues related to schools. In my own home state of Vermont, a Healthy Schools bill was signed into law in the spring of 2000. This is a positive step forward to address the indoor air quality in Vermont’s schools, and to limit exposure of Vermont’s teachers and children to potentially harmful environments. However, there is much that can be done at the federal level.
First, we need good scientific data to better understand the link between outdoor and indoor environments and student health and learning. Second, in the context of school siting, construction, and renovation, we need federal guidelines that take a child’s small size and developmental needs into consideration.
Finally, we need to invest long-overdue resources and coordinate federal, state and local efforts to improve the health of our schools.
Studies indicate that the benefits of green schools are numerous.
! Green schools can save 40 percent or more on energy costs, as Alex Wilson discusses in his testimony. Mr. Wilson, from Vermont’s BuildingGreen, Inc., is on our second panel today.
! Students in schools that rely primarily on daylighting perform up to 26 percent better on standardized tests than their counterparts in poorly lit schools.
! Claire Barnett, with the Healthy Schools Network, will point out in her statement today that an estimated 17 million school days were lost in 1997 due to asthma. Taking steps to address air pollutants leading to asthma would mean higher school attendance.
These are the kind of statistics I prefer.
I am hopeful that today’s hearing sheds some light on how to achieve greener schools, and thus better health, for our students and teachers.
I have highlighted points that will be made by each witness in our second panel. A lot of thought and consideration have gone into these testimonies. I urge EPA, as well as the Departments of Education and Energy, to carefully review our witnesses’ statements.
There is no greater investment than the one we make in our children, and their centers of learning and socialization. I look forward to working with all of you to promote green schools.