At the recently held Greenbuild Expo, former President Bill Clinton spoke of the need to “green  up” our public schools. He announced that the Clinton Climate Initiative, part of the Clinton Foundation, is working with the U.S. Green Building Council to help K-12 public schools reduce energy consumption in the buildings. The USGBC claims, “green schools save $100,000 per year — enough to hire two new teachers, buy 500 new computers or purchase 5,000 new textbooks.” The organization also claims that greener schools will have a positive impact on student health, test scores and teacher retention.

Sounds great. I just have one question: How is this retrofit being funded? Maybe I’m just missing it, but I’ve Googled, checked with Ask.com and even “Yahoo!-ed” for that specific information. No luck finding it.

Private buildings undergoing LEED certification often underwrite the retrofit costs themselves. But without grants from agencies, such as the USGBC or CCI, it’s the taxpayers who most likely would be hit with the cost to green up the public schools. And coming from an area that already has voted down numerous education referendums, I don’t see taxpayers willing to ante up the money to provide schools with rainwater catchments or green roofs — not when we’re struggling with large class sizes, old textbooks and the possible elimination of classes and activities, including the exploratory arts, woodworking and other skills courses. 

The launching last December of USGBC’s LEED for Schools means that we’ll be facing this issue sooner than many of us want to or can afford to right now. But in the long run, can we afford not to?

I’d be curious to hear from people in communities that have, or are in the process of retrofitting their schools to be green. What has been the impact on the community? Have you seen a difference in your taxes? In students’ scores or grades?

Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

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