Have you ever had an older car and finally purchased a new car and been amazed at the difference in safety and comfort in the new car? Much the same can be said for the improvements in energy technology in the last ten years now available for school building upgrades and new schools. National PTA is urging Congress to include at least $100 billion in direct grants and $30 billion in bonds for K-12 public school infrastructure projects as part of the Build Back Better Act.1 National PTA and Washington State PTA are pursuing action on climate change priorities in the current legislative sessions with regards to school infrastructure for the following reasons:
- Commercial buildings consume 35% of electricity consumed in the U.S and generate 16% percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 30% of energy is wasted in current buildings.2
National PTA supports high energy efficiency construction and updates to schools as a part of its position statement on climate change: “Encourage the use of renewable, sustainable energy, and technologies, as well as environmentally healthy land-use policies to reduce greenhouse gases and manage hazards to minimize further health problems.” 3 National PTA’s legislative priorities for the 117th Congress (2021-2022) include investing in school infrastructure, specifically, “Modernize schools, including making them green, so their energy consumption and carbon footprints are reduced.” 4
Children and youth are more susceptible to climate change through heat-related illness from increased temperatures, particulate matter from smoke, and extreme weather events. Their lungs and immune system are still developing and are at increased risk from airborne pathogens. Also, they are more likely to play outside. In addition, all families are being impacted by extreme weather events like floods, fires, and heat that displace and injure them. 5,6
Washington State PTA has recognized the risk to children from climate change and has successfully advocated for programs to design greener schools that incorporate lower energy needs and use more sustainable materials. Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has developed checklists and resources for the construction of high-performance schools, including high energy efficiency, well-sourced construction materials, and the flow of materials into schools.7 The resources were last updated in 2018, and the Washington State Legislature supported the High Performance Schools Program because, “High-performance public buildings are proven to increase student test scores, reduce worker absenteeism, and cut energy and utility costs.” 8 The Washington State PTA position statement also notes that not all Washington communities are equally affected by climate change and that some districts are in particular need of support.
Guest post provided by WSPTA Federal Legislative Advocacy Subcommittee member, Jean Guth
- National PTA Responds to House Passage of Build Back Better Infrastructure Legislation
- Both bullet points from About the Commercial Buildings Integration Program | US Department of Energy
- Position Statement – Environmental Health, Remediation, Sustainability and Climate Change (pta.org)
- National PTA PUBLIC POLICY PRIORITIES for the 117th Congress (pta.org)
- Issue One-Pager “Mitigating the Adverse Impacts of Climate Change” (wastatepta.org)
- Resolution 11.28 Mitigating the Health Effects of Climate Change (wastatepta.org)
- Washington Sustainable Schools Protocol 2018 (www.k12.wa.us)
- Chapter 39.35D RCW: HIGH-PERFORMANCE PUBLIC BUILDINGS (wa.gov)