Senator Clinton Calls on President to Fund the Healthy, High-Performance Schools Program
In a letter sent today, Senator Clinton called on President Bush to include funding for the Healthy, High-Performance Schools (HHPS) Program in his 2008 Budget. This program is designed to address prevalent health problems children face as a result of being exposed to lead, mold and toxic chemicals at their schools by providing grants to help school districts make their buildings healthier, safer and more energy efficient.
"The Healthy, High-Performance Schools Program is critical in providing schools with much needed funding to create healthy learning environments. Currently, schools are forced to delay the purchase of necessary instructional supplies because of increasing energy costs and budgets too small to cover maintenance. Many times these schools are even faced with cutting teachers and other instructional personnel," said Senator Clinton.
The HHPS Program will provide schools with proper funding to ensure they meet federal and state health codes. According to a report from the General Accounting Office, almost half of all U.S. schoolchildren are attending schools with at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition. These conditions have led to many health problems such as coughing, headaches, carbon monoxide poisoning, and increased incidence of asthma along with more severe asthma attacks. As a result of these health problems, children are missing more and more school days, which adversely impacts their academic performance.
According to the New York Academy of Science, 20-25 percent of students in low income areas of New York state suffer from asthma, which is more than double the national average. A study by the American Lung Association and American Federation of Teachers found that fully funding the HHPS program could reduce rates of asthma in schools by 25 percent on average. And according to the School Management and Planning Magazine's 2006 Construction Report, last year alone, 82 percent of school districts in New York State had an operations budget shortfall because of energy costs. By becoming energy efficient, these schools could save 30 percent on their energy costs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Senator Clinton has led the effort to have this program included as part of the President's budget since the HHPS program was signed into law in 2001. She also fought for this program to be included in the No Child Left Behind Act that was enacted in 2002.
The full text of the letter sent to President Bush is below.
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to urge you to include funding for the Healthy, High-Performance Schools (HHPS) program in the fiscal year 2008 budget proposal you will soon submit to Congress. If funded, the HHPS program would improve the attendance, performance, and health of millions of children across the country.
Funding for the HHPS program would provide grants to help local educational agencies ensure that their schools meet federal and state health codes and employ environmentally sound practices that can lead to reduced energy costs.
The Healthy, High-Performance Schools program is needed as more and more children are falling ill due to the poor conditions found in their schools. A recent study sponsored by the American Lung Association and the American Federation of Teachers estimates that a shift from an unhealthy to healthy school would result in a 25 percent reduction in cases of asthma among students. Asthma is the leading cause of school absences in the U.S., accounting for more than 14 million missed school days each year, a number that could decrease dramatically by funding this program.
The environmental conditions of schools can also affect the teachers and school staff, as several reports have also indicated higher rates of asthma among educational workers than any other profession. A study by the U.S. Department of Education concluded that poor environments in schools, due primarily to the effects of indoor air pollutants, adversely influence the health, performance, and attendance of students.
In addition to preventing health problems among our youth and educators, the Healthy, High Performance School program will allow many schools to achieve energy-efficiency, potentially saving over $1.5 billion for schools nationwide. Our nation's schools spent over $8 billion on energy costs last school year, an increase of $2 billion in just four years. These skyrocketing energy prices are causing officials to make very difficult decisions on cutting back much needed academic programs in efforts to keep the heat and lights on in their schools. Fully funding this program will save these school districts money that could be rededicated to numerous other educational resources, like books, computers or more training for our teachers.
By including this program in the No Child Left Behind Act, Congress acknowledged that environmental factors can be a barrier to academic achievement as well as the Federal government's compelling interest in addressing these issues. We have an obligation to our children to ensure that the school buildings where they spend so much of their time are safe and free from dangerous environmental conditions.
The Healthy, High-Performance Schools program will give schools the tools they need to save money on energy, make our schools environmentally friendly, and address children's health problems before they start. I urge you to include funding for this critical program in your fiscal year 2008 budget proposal and thank you for your consideration of this request.
Hillary Rodham Clinton