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Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HOLT. I thank Chairman Kline, Ranking Member Miller, and their staffs for their work to produce this reauthorization bill that makes a good deal of progress from the existing law. I share many of the concerns of our colleagues who want to see even more improvement in the accountability, equity and transparency of charter schools as we continue to move the bill forward.

I have a simple amendment today in this bill that reauthorizes the Charter School Program. My amendment encourages the Secretary of Education to award a priority for green school building practices to ensure that any Federal investment in charter school facilities would improve the energy efficiency and environmental advantages of those schools.

Energy bills are the second highest operating expenditure for schools after personnel costs. So we must do all we can to help schools implement green building practices and reduce their energy costs. My amendment will help ensure that schools spend educational resources on educating students rather than heating and cooling inefficient buildings.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 30 percent of energy consumed in buildings is used unnecessarily or inefficiently. By using green building techniques to eliminate areas where energy is used unwisely and is wasted, a school's operating costs can be reduced significantly. A dollar wasted on inefficient heating is lost forever. A dollar invested in a child will pay dividends forever.

The U.S. Green Building Council supports this amendment and in a letter to me they wrote: ``On average, green schools save $100,000 per year--enough to hire two new teachers, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 new textbooks.'' They go on to note that green schools don't cost more, but in fact can be built at or below regional cost and operated within existing facilities' budgets and save money.

Now, I'm disappointed that the bill we are considering today reauthorizes only charter school programs. We should be considering full reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We should be considering a public school construction bill. Assisting local school districts with school construction and modernization would help rebuild and upgrade local schools and create jobs.

But I do want to see this amendment included in the bill. It will help schools all across America. It will save energy; it will create jobs; it will improve education.

I urge its passage.


Mr. KLINE. The underlying bill maintains and strengthens Federal support to assist charter schools in accessing credit for facilities construction, as it has in the past and will in this, but it doesn't get into the details of school construction. It doesn't take another step towards getting the Federal Government involved in school construction.

I understand there's a great excitement in some areas about putting green in any construction, or in anything for that matter. If it's green, apparently it's better.

This amendment, I'm afraid, will actually weaken efforts at the State level to fund school construction. It will dramatically increase the cost of building elementary and secondary charter schools. Where there's already limited funds available, some States, school districts, and charter schools will be forced to use union workers to construct public charter schools and to comply with this need for green schools.

Instead of imposing new burdens on charter schools, we should support State and local efforts to raise student academic achievement, stay out of the school construction business. This amendment is not an appropriate role for the Federal Government. I urge opposition to the amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I think the chairman of the committee reads too much into this amendment. It says, in awarding grants, the Secretary is encouraged to give priority to States that encourage green building practices and certification. In other words, if it certifiably will save energy and thereby save the school district money, it should be encouraged. What in the world could be wrong with that?

I would urge my chair to reconsider after he has read this amendment and support us in the passage of this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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