Senator Clinton Calls For Funding To Ensure Healthy Schools
Today is National Healthy Schools Day
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton marked National Healthy Schools Day by emphasizing that too many children in New York and around the country are struggling to learn in deteriorating schools. Senator Clinton called on the Appropriations Committee to fund Healthy, High-Performance Schools, a program Senator Clinton was instrumental in helping to create in the No Child Left Behind Act.
"A quality school environment is essential to the academic success of children in America's schools but too many children in New York and around the country are struggling to learn in crumbling schools and unhealthy environmental conditions. Creating the Healthy, High-Performance Schools program was important step toward giving our communities the help they need to ensure our children can learn in a safe and healthy school environment, but we need funding to do the job," said Senator Clinton.
According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, 3.5 million children attend schools that are in very poor or non-operational conditions. In addition, America's schools need more than $127 billion to meet the renovation and construction to make them a healthy place to learn and work. New York faces a significant need to upgrade and modernize its schools. New York was recently ranked ninth among the nation's top ten worst states for environmental problems and facility inadequacy.
A recent study by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University found that students learning in substandard classrooms have test scores that are five to 17 percentage points lower than those of their peers attending school in better buildings. Yet, almost half of all U.S. schoolchildren are attending schools with at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition. In New York, 76 percent of schools have at least one unsatisfactory environmental factor.
During crafting of the No Child Left Behind Act, Senator Clinton worked tirelessly to include the Healthy, High-Performance Schools program. Under this program, local educational agencies can receive grants to fund school building and renovation projects. The Healthy, High-Performing Schools program was also designed to provide funds for states to create and disseminate information and technical assistance to the neediest local schools, helping them to improve the indoor air quality and energy efficiency of their buildings. The implementation of Healthy, High-Performance Schools will help the U.S. Department of Education contribute to the substantive on-going federal research on child environmental health.
To aid school districts in efforts to improve school conditions, Senator Clinton also joined with Senator Tom Harkin (IA) to introduce legislation help rebuild America's crumbling schools. The Investing for Tomorrow's Schools Act would enable states to develop State Infrastructure Banks to provide a flexible, inexpensive source of funding for school construction and renovation. State Infrastructure Banks would offer school districts a flexible menu of loan and credit enhancement assistance, such as low interest loans, bond-financing security, loan guarantees, and credit support for financing projects, which result in lower interest rates.
"Passage of this bill would lay the groundwork for a robust system that would provide immediate aid to the neediest schools and help fund affordable construction far into the future. This modest proposal is an important piece of the healthy schools solution," Senator Clinton remarked.
A copy of Senator Clinton's letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee urging funding for the Healthy, High-Performance Schools program follows:
Dear Chairman Specter and Ranking Member Harkin:
I write to urge you to provide $25 million in the fiscal year 2007 budget for the Healthy and High Performance Schools program. I am very concerned that the President's budget request consistently denies funding for this vital program despite the growing body of evidence clearing illustrating that school environments can be unhealthy places for children.
An increasing number of studies are demonstrating healthy building environments contribute to lower absenteeism that is so and are critical to children's capacity to learn. Despite this fact, almost one-quarter (28,000) of our nation's schools have inadequate heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and 21,000 have faulty roofs.
Ignoring the health of school buildings can have serious ramifications. A recent study by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University found that students learning in substandard classrooms have test scores that are five to 17 percentage points lower than those of their peers attending school in better buildings. If we are going to hold schools accountable for students' performance on tests, then we simply cannot allow our lowest performing students to start out five to 17 points behind solely because of the unhealthy environment in which they are taught.
The Healthy, High-Performance Schools (HHPS) program would provide the crucial funds for states to create and disseminate information and technical assistance to the neediest local schools. This data will, in turn, help states to improve the indoor air quality, energy efficiency and overall health of their school buildings. HHPS implementation will also help the U.S. Department of Education contribute to the substantive, on-going federal research on child environmental health.
It is absolutely essential that we help our students and our local schools compete and produce healthy adults, by engaging in supporting better facility design and environmental management, and by encouraging cutting edge facilitating needed federal research on child learning. The Healthy and High Performance Schools program does both.
I hope that you will make Healthy and High-Performance Schools a priority during the budget process this year and urge you to provide $25 million in the budget for provide adequate for the Healthy, High Performance Schools Program in fiscal year 2007.
Hillary Rodham Clinton