Federal

School Facilities Bill Stuck in Senate Limbo

By Katie Ash — June 11, 2009 1 min read

A bill awaiting action in the U.S. Senate could set aside up to $6.4 billion in fiscal 2010 for modernization, renovation, and repair projects aimed at producing school facilities that are energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill May 14 in a 275-155 vote, split mostly down party lines with Democratic support and Republican opposition.

“This is landmark legislation, because it’s the first sign that the federal [government] is getting involved in the facilities part of education,” said John K. Ramsey, the executive director and chief executive officer of the Council of Educational Facilities Planners International, or CEFPI, based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The bill, HR 2187, would set aside $32.4 billion over five years for environmentally friendly, or “green,” school modernization, repair, and renovation projects over the next five fiscal years—2010 to 2015—distributed through Title I formulas. It would also provide an additional $100 million for each of those five years for schools damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

The total cost of the bill is expected to be about $32.9 billion.

“It costs too much. It borrows too much. It controls too much,” U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, said of the bill in a May 6 statement.

But supporters point to the cost savings on energy and the need for modern facilities.

A “green” building can save a typical school enough money in energy costs to hire another full-time teacher, said Andrew Goldberg, the senior director of federal relations for the Washington-based American Institute of Architects, who based his savings estimate on data published in a 2006 report on green schools.

The Senate did not take any action on a similar bill passed by the House last year. And in negotiations over the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in January, the Senate stripped that economic-stimulus package of money specifically for school modernization, repair, and renovation.

Still, facilities experts are optimistic.

“The Senate’s been very noncommittal,” said Mr. Ramsey, from CEFPI. “But we think a bill will get through, although we don’t know what the final form will be.”

A version of this article appeared in the June 17, 2009 edition of Education Week

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