A Green Apple for Our Teachers
by Stacia Peese
September has passed and our children are settling in for another year of reading, writing and arithmetic.
The past several months, I’ve been learning about challenges and opportunities in the education community. How are the students being prepared for the 21st century? What type of tools do they need? How are facilities supporting these progressive learning styles? And how can we pay for it all? Each of these questions has complex answers. In this blog post, I’m focusing on the maintenance and operation numbers.
This past spring, USGBC’s Center for Green Schools released a study entitled State of Our Schools: America’s K-12 Facilities. The study highlights that many of our school facilities are struggling to provide 21st learning environments because many essential maintenance and capital improvement programs are underfunded.
According to the study, on every school day, nearly 50 million students and 6 million adults occupy close to 100,000 buildings. This equates to an estimated 7.5 billion gross square feet and 2 million acres of land. That’s huge! In fact, state and local governments invest more capital in K-12 public school facilities than in any other infrastructure sector outside of the highways.
Nationally, between the years of 1994-2013, states and districts spent a total of $925 billion in 2014 dollars on maintenance and operations (M&O), including: daily cleaning, grounds keeping maintenance, utilities, and security of facilities. This averages to $46 billion per year over those 20 years. In order to keep pace with the projected increase in student enrollment from 2012-2024, M&O spending will need to increase another by another $8M.
In 2013, Texas K-12 Public School facilities consisted of 8,731 schools amounting to 602 million gross square feet. Enrollment was set at 4,897,523. In the period from 1994-2013, Texas public school districts spent $4,598M maintaining and operating its facilities. That is roughly 11% of their total operating funds. The study stated that based on historic rates of spending, the State of Texas will need to increase its spend an additional $2M per year to accommodate the additional 688,641 students projected to enroll in classes between 2012 and 2024. Most of that increase will go toward capital construction and new facilities as Texas’ historic spending on M&O is above the National average. Since the study was conducted, this may be a challenge to maintain with the declining oil and gas revenues that have been enjoyed by the State.
The report’s executive summary provides four key strategies for addressing our challenges.1) Understand your community’s public school facilities.
A key requirement is to have better data on public school infrastructure.
2) Engage in education facilities planning.
Education leaders must communicate to the general public the value of safer and healthier environments for learning. Provide a plan.
3) Support new public funding.
Relying primarily on local property taxes will not allow for improvements. We need to be creative not only on state and local levels. We need to explore, too, how the federal government may assist.
4) “Finally, leverage public and private resources in new ways to assist states and districts in providing healthy, safe, educationally appropriate and environmentally responsible facilities for their communities.”
Practicing sustainability in schools can make a big impact in managing our maintenance and operations resources. A few activities that fall within these categories include daily cleaning, campus waste audits, grounds-keeping, campus beautification, security and school lighting.
If an educator is interested in going green or know of one that you would like to support, consider the Green Apple Day of Service, a global movement to put all children in schools where they have clean and healthy air to breathe, where energy and resources are conserved, and where they can be inspired to dream of a brighter future. Events can be hosted year round. To plan an event, visit: http://mygreenapple.org/
May we always learn new things in order to better support ourselves in the future. May we always have an environment available to test new skills and theories. That’s what I’m doing here with my first ever blog post as a proud Regional Council member of USGBC Texas, whose mission is to educate all Texans about the benefits of sustainable building.
School is never out for the pro, so if you’re interested in opportunities to grow and learn in sustainability, join us! Here’s how: https://usgbctexas.wildapricot.org/join-us.
Stacia Peese, LEED AP
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