H.R.2187, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, authorized $6.4 billion in new grants and low-interest loans to local educational agencies for the construction, repair, modernization and “greening” of public educational facilities. Rep. Polis (D-CO), a supporter of the Act, described the need for the legislation by saying that “an excellent education . . . (can) only be achieved . . . in safe schools and productive learning environments equipped with the resources required to succeed. Anything else is increasingly unacceptable in the 21st century.”
The was a vote on an amendment to H.R. 2187, offered by Rep. Titus (D-NV), to establish a council to advise the Secretary of Education on green high-performing schools. Specifically, the council would advise on the impact of such schools on teaching and learning, health, energy costs, and environmental impacts. The council would also work with the Secretary to identify Federal policies that are barriers to helping states make schools green and high performing, and to recommend federal policies to increase the number of such schools. Additionally, the council would provide technical assistance to states and school districts.
Rep. Titus, speaking in support of the amendment she co-authored, claimed that it would provide the Secretary of Education with the tools needed “to ensure the opportunities outlined in this important bill are available to as many schools as possible. It will also ensure that the upgrades made to school facilities meet the highest standards of quality and that the Secretary is always getting feedback about how to improve the program.” She said the council “will help with coordination, efficiency, best practices and accountability.”
Rep. Markey (D-CO), the other author of the amendment, said it would help the Education Secretary “evaluate the benefits of these greener schools and identify the roadblocks schools face in achieving (those benefits).”
Rep. McKeon (R-CA) opposed the amendment, saying it “makes the government even bigger than it already is (and) expands the Federal Government's role in school construction to unprecedented levels.” McKeon added: “(T)he Federal Government is big enough” and creating this new council “will only serve to expand and cement Federal interference in how school facilities are maintained. . . The States and the local districts (should) take the lead (in school construction)” with the federal government offering “limited but helpful support.”
McKeon also argued that the establishment of this council would be another case of the federal government “steadily consuming more taxpayer dollars and slowly taking control--actually not slowly, it's been quite rapidly in the last few months--over what used to be State or local decisions. Adding an advisory council for green schools does not help. In fact, it makes the problems worse.”
The amendment passed by a vote of 270-160. Two hundred and fifty-one Democrats and nineteen Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and fifty-eight Republicans and two Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, language establishing an advisory council was added to the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act.