BlueGreen Alliance

Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

Posts About American Federation of Teachers

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Similarly, investing in our schools yields dividends far beyond just the students who attend the school and the teachers and employees who work there. Making sure our educational institutions measure up to the kind of quality environment and education we want to provide for our children is a priority, and that means making the investments that will work towards making every school a green school. 

The average public school building in the United States is over 40 years old, and many are much older. More than 15,000 of them have air that was deemed unsafe to breathe, leading to chronic conditions such as asthma and causing students to miss days in class. 

There are many resources out there to help parents, teachers, administrators and communities to make upgrades and repairs that will improve learning, create local jobs and create tangible examples of how a cleaner economy will work for us. 

Check out these great resources below to see how you can start making green schools work for your community: 

Green Ribbon Schools
U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools recognition award honors schools and districts that are exemplary in reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and providing effective environmental and sustainability education, which incorporates science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), civic skills and green career pathways.  

Learn more about the program and take advantage of the wealth of resources

Center for Green Schools
U.S. Green Building Council

The Center for Green Schools works directly with teachers, students, administrators, elected officials and communities to create programs, resources and partnerships that transform all schools into healthy learning environments. 

Browse the website for useful resources such as the 2013 State of Our Schools Report or the Green Schools Investment Guide

Green Apple Day of Service
The Center for Green Schools, U.S. Green Building Council

The Green Apple Day of Service, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, gives parents, teachers, students, companies and local organizations the opportunity to transform all schools into healthy, safe and productive learning environments through local service projects. 

Check out project ideas, read last year's highlights and register your 2013 project today! 

Eco-Schools USA
National Wildlife Federation

Started in 1994 by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) with support by the European Commission, Eco-Schools is now an internationally acclaimed program that provides a framework to help educators integrate sustainable principles throughout their schools and curriculum. 

Get started on the Seven Steps program today! 

Building Minds, Minding Buildings
American Federation of Teachers

Launched in 2006, AFT’s “Building Minds, Minding Buildings” initiative recognizes that the school environment cannot be separated from the academic agenda, and high standards must be reflected not only in high quality teaching and a challenging curriculum, but also in the planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation of our nation’s schools. 

Learn more about this effort on their website

Posted In: Green Schools, American Federation of Teachers

The following blog is from Mollie Wagoner, legislative intern for the BlueGreen Alliance.

It’s that time again, when members of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) from across the country pour into D.C. for the biannual TEACH Conference. TEACH is a chance for teachers and other school employees to come together and discuss important issues they face in their local districts as well as share success stories. The 2013 theme, “Reclaiming the Promise,” put an emphasis on what it will take to rebuild and restructure public education so that all children can succeed, and part of this work includes ensuring a safe, healthy, and sustainable school environment for all students. Climate change and sustainability have been part of AFT’s efforts before, but this year’s conference marks the first time sustainability has been specifically include in the TEACH discussions, with its own small meeting group as well as a “Go Green” station in the Expo Center.

Getting the message out about the importance of sustainability to teachers, students and schools is essential if progress is to be made, and having those conversations at a large level is an important start to that process. The “Go Green” area of the Expo Center allowed AFT members a chance to showcase the sustainability work they have been doing in their schools and districts. For example, two teachers from Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., talked about the new Sustainable Earth track their school is offering and the curriculum they have built for the program. At Martin Luther King High School in Detroit, teachers have set up a community green fair where members of the community and the school come together to showcase different ways individuals can lead more sustainable lives. At the Cook-Wissahickon School in Philadelphia, a parent-driven group formed its own nonprofit and worked with teachers and the community — as well as through the Green Apple Day of Service — to revitalize a community meadow. These are just a few examples of the work being done on the local level around sustainability.

Along with the groundbreaking inclusion of sustainability issues at TEACH, 2013 also marks the five year anniversary of the AFT report “Building Minds, Minding Buildings: Our Union’s Roadmap to Green and Sustainable Schools.” This report details the importance of making schools green and the benefits that come with sustainability, such as reducing energy costs through LEED certification and other methods, healthier learning environments, and more sustainable building practices. This report has given strength to the green school movement, and now AFT plans to do a five-year follow-up. AFT wants to fulfill the promise of carrying green buildings into a green education. The new report is scheduled to be out by the end of this year.

Teachers, students, parents, and school administrators are taking notice of the impact climate change is having on their community. The need to create sustainable green space is undeniable and the emergence of sustainability at the TEACH Conference highlights this priority.  As BlueGreen Alliance recently outlined, green and healthy schools can lift up an entire community and act as a role model of sustainability and resilience. Schools are often the centerpiece of a community, so a healthy school can help build a thriving community.

Posted In: American Federation of Teachers

The following post is from Ashley Haugo, Policy Advocate for the BlueGreen Alliance.

We talk a lot about jobs. And the environment. And creating a healthy, livable future for our children and grandchildren. But why don’t we talk more about one piece of infrastructure that is key to making so much of this a reality? Our public schools. 

Just like the transportation, communications, energy and water systems we rely on every day to function and thrive, schools are an integral part of our nation’s infrastructure and we must strive to make them modern, efficient, healthy and safe places to learn, work and play. 

That’s the message — in conjunction with the BlueGreen Alliance’s  Repair America campaign — I took to the American Federation of Teacher’s (AFT) biannual TEACH conference this week. Among the thousands of educators, school employees, leaders and activists, I sat down with a handful of teachers from across the country who work on sustainability issues to talk about how schools can and should be a central part of the national dialogue on revitalizing America. 

At the heart of many communities, schools serve as a place of learning for our youth as well as a gathering ground for friends, neighbors and community members. Unfortunately though, like many other parts of our nation’s infrastructure, public schools are sorely neglected, receiving a “D” rating from the American Society of Civil Engineers this year. This disrepair is taking a toll on the health and safety of all who pass through those school doors, and it is leaving these facilities even more vulnerable to the extreme weather events we are experiencing with climate change. 

We need to fix this — and we can. By coming together to advance our joint priorities of health, education, jobs, environment, and economy, we can make our communities stronger and more resilient to these crises. The theme of this year’s TEACH conference was “Reclaiming the Promise: Uniting for Public Schools,” and the energy and desire of all in attendance to achieve this goal was contagious (if you don’t believe me, watch the last 7 minutes of this video). 

These are hard-working people who understand that innovative — and sometimes even unlikely — partnerships are the key to realizing significant change. From ailing (and failing) schools to a languishing economy to a dangerously warming planet, we can solve big problems with big partnerships. By working together, we can build a strong foundation for future generations of Americans to build upon — great schools, a prosperous economy for all, and a clean environment — while tackling the threat of climate change. 

Join the BlueGreen Alliance and AFT — along with other partners and allies — in the call for greener, cleaner, safer schools all across the nation. Read our statement on repairing America’s schools and sign up to get involved. 

Posted In: Infrastructure, Climate Change, Green Schools, American Federation of Teachers

The following blog post is from Sue Browne, Regional Program Manager for the BlueGreen Alliance.

Progress on funding Michigan’s roads is currently at a standstill but the state’s roads continue to deteriorate, according to recent headlines. A recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers showed 38 percent of Michigan’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition. Our roads however aren’t the only infrastructure to suffer from underfunding and neglect. Our crumbling bridges, electric, water, wastewater and transit systems demand that we make significant and long-term investments and we can create jobs and protect communities along the way.

Recently, a Washington State a bridge collapsed, injuring three people. In Washington, D.C., a sinkhole has closed a major intersection in the city and untold traffic delay. And, here in Michigan, flooding resulted in the governor declaring a state of emergency for 19 counties. The need to fix our infrastructure knows no boundaries — state or otherwise.

If not one singular event — then all of these events combined — should spur people into action to address this widespread problem.

Beyond causing property damage, lost profits for businesses and a general inconvenience, severe weather has an effect on public health. April’s record rainfall here in Michigan also caused billions of gallons in sewage overflows to contaminate local rivers.

While putting off vitally important fixes threatens to cause more damage, addressing the weaknesses in our wastewater, roads, bridges and more can protect communities and the environment, and keep and produce good jobs all at the same time. By doing that, we’ll build a prosperous future for America.

Back to our roads as an example of the need for better funding, even compared to other states Michigan spends less on transportation infrastructure than nearby states spend. Michigan spends $174 per person, while Ohio spends $235, Wisconsin $231 and Minnesota $315.

Fixing all of this is a challenge for Michigan and the whole country, but by investing now in our utility, energy and transportation infrastructure, including waste water management, transmission, and transit infrastructure, we can cut down on inefficiencies, create good jobs for working people, reduce carbon emissions and hopefully prevent the worst consequences of climate change.

Henry Kaiser, the engineer, businessman, and entrepreneur who designed and built the Hoover Dam, once said, “Problems are just opportunities in work clothes.” That’s what the repairing our outdated water, transportation, electricity, and communication systems is all about.

All of this will reduce pollution, create good jobs for workers and keep our communities safe from the impacts of climate change. It is time to Repair America to protect workers, the environment and communities, produce good jobs, and ensure that our economy and environment prosper.

Posted In: Michigan, Climate Change, Infrastructure, American Federation of Teachers, Union of Concerned Scientists, United Steelworkers, Utility Workers Union of America

The following blog is cross-posted from the Good Jobs, Green Jobs website.

Even months after Super Storm Sandy, power hadn’t been restored to all residents on the East Coast. That was one of the many events that brought a serious problem to light: Our infrastructure systems — the energy, water and communications networks we rely on and use every day — have not changed, in many ways, since they were originally designed, and they are not able to keep up with the demands of 21st century living. This was the discussion of the second plenary panel during the 2013 Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference on Tuesday, April 16.

As Mike Langford, National President of the Utility Workers Union of America, explained, “Our infrastructure is at the end of its life. That is why our national infrastructure earned a grade of D+… Don’t we deserve an A+ water and energy system?”

Nancy Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator for Water at the Environmental Protection Agency added, “The good news is that investing in our water infrastructure creates jobs. We owe it to future generations to ensure they have safe drinking water like we have had.”

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke about the importance of using pension funds to fund training programs to support training programs for workers. “We know that if we invest pension funds into infrastructure projects in a prudent, fiducially-sound way, retrofit and upgrade buildings to make them energy efficient, and create those type of jobs and training to allow current workers to upgrade their skills and create a new skill base for new workers, that is a win-win-win.”

Representative Stacey Abrams, Minority Leader of the Georgia House, shared the story of the Atlanta Green Beltway as an example of what can happen when infrastructure projects are done right. This project is re-using 22-miles of historic railroad corridors to connect 45 neighborhoods and provide a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit.

Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of Public Policy for the National Council of La Raza, spoke about the importance of building relationships and non-traditional partnerships in order to get these types of investments done. “We spend a lot of time talking to ourselves. Building relationships and agenda setting collaboratively takes time and energy, so it is easier to talk to ourselves. Building deeper, collaborative and authentic relationships on the local and national level is what is needed to win.”

Langford pushed conference attendees to be talk about the importance of investing in our nation’s infrastructure to those in their home communities. “Every person needs to be an ambassador for how these types of projects need to happen in their own communities. We need community involvement and education so we can get the investments that are good for workers and good for communities.”

Posted In: Infrastructure, Transportation, Broadband, Utility Workers Union of America, American Federation of Teachers

Commuting to work, traveling on vacation, waiting for a flight at your local airport or for a package to arrive in the mail, our nation’s transportation infrastructure has a tremendous impact on everything we do. Good transportation infrastructure makes everything move along more smoothly and bad infrastructure causes costly congestion and delays. 

Too frequently, yesterday’s transportation policy guides today’s roads and transit investments, which has proven problematic. The importance of our transportation infrastructure to both job creation and the environment cannot be understated, which is why tomorrow, the BlueGreen Alliance in partnership with the White House Office of Public Engagement and the U.S. Department of Transportation, will convene the White House Forum on Creating Jobs and Building Better Communities through Transit Investment. 

The BlueGreen Alliance’s Executive Director David Foster and Ray LaHood, Secretary of the US Department of Transportation will convene a panel of speakers which will feature Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Peter Rogoff, FTA Deputy Administrator for management and Budget Sylvia Garcia, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership Technology & Supplier Scouting Program Manager Carroll Thomas Martin, and Marcy Lowe from Duke University’s Center on Globalization, Governance, and Competitiveness. 

Following the panel, BlueGreen Alliance partners Amalgamated Transit Union International President Larry Hanley, SMART Assistant to the General President Marc Norberg, United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo Gerard, Natural Resources Defense Council Executive Director Peter Lehner, and representatives from the AFL-CIO will convene industry and citizens groups to identify short and long terms solutions to advance transit and rail investment.  

Public transportation not only helps to maintain and create jobs, it also moves workers to and from their jobs while saving fuel and money. Businesses located near public transportation experience more employee reliability and less absenteeism and turnover. Employers have a larger labor pool from which to choose, and employees are happier because they are not stuck in traffic

Every $10 million invested in public transportation results in a $30 million gain in sales for local businesses due to increased foot traffic and decreased congestion on roadways

Exploring the obstacles we face every day is crucial to driving transportation policies that will shape the future of our manufacturing, construction, procurement, and planning policies of the future. 

Although the President recently signing a two-year surface transportation bill (MAP-21) into law on July 6, 2012, it’s necessary to keep preparing for the next surface transportation authorization. We must continue to look ahead and prioritize investments that will create jobs, improve efficiency and protect the environment. 

Posted In: Transportation, Amalgamated Transit Union, American Federation of Teachers, Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union , United Steelworkers

Madison College in Wisconsin offers a Certificate in Renewable Energy Technology which prepares students for careers in energy management and renewable energy technology.

Chris Folk, an Industrial Maintenance Instructor and AFT Local 243 member, recently gave the BlueGreen Alliance a tour of several of the renewable energy projects students have worked on including a solar-powered transit center and two wind turbines.

Paul Morschauser, Senior Diesel Tech Instructor and AFT Local 243 member, discusses the Madison Area Technical College Diesel & Heavy Equipment Technician program along with MATC's biodiesel instruction.

Posted In: Wisconsin, Clean Energy, American Federation of Teachers

This blog is cross-posted from the American Federation of Teachers. If you missed it, you can also read what Michael Williams, Senior Policy and Legislative Advocate for the BlueGreen Alliance, had to say about the Green Schools National Conference in his earlier blog.

The Lorax isn't the only one speaking for the trees. AFT members from California, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, New York and Texas, as well as our union allies from  the AFL-CIO and the BlueGreen Alliance, attended and presented workshops at the second annual green schools national conference Feb. 27-29 in Denver.

Members from the United Federation of Teachers in New York City and the Douglas County Federation in Colorado gave presentations about their school programs, covering the gamut of environmental initiatives, starting with recycling and progressing to vertical vegetable gardening and wind power. In each case, school employees initiated the programs, which became wildly popular among students and the community.

UFT member Steve Ritz describes the Green Bronx Machine using small models of his school's vertical vegetable gardens.

Special education teacher Steve Ritz led a session about his program, in which students learn to install and cultivate green walls and roofs. With help from the South Bronx community, Ritz's Green Machine has grown more than 25,000 pounds of vegetables while also improving academic performance and work opportunities for students. His classroom features the first indoor edible wall in New York City's public schools; it routinely yields enough produce to provide 450 healthy meals to students, and it trains a certified workforce—students who have installed green roofs from New Jersey to outer Long Island.

Ritz has bumped up attendance from 40 to 93 percent, helped create 2,200 youth jobs and won an award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. His speech at Columbia University, "From Crack to Cucumbers," along with several videos, including a TED talk in January , have drawn a national following, including an invitation to the White House.

Another UFT member, special education teacher Mitch Porcelan from Brooklyn, gave a presentation about his efforts to reconnect students to the natural environment and create meaningful learning experiences. His students, who spend time gardening and studying outdoors, have improved their performance significantly on standardized tests.

Members of the PeaceJam Club from Ponderosa High School in Douglas County, Colo., presented a session on their extraordinary environmental efforts addressing recycling, e-cycling, energy management and renewable energy. The PeaceJam Club, sponsored by school secretary and AFT member Debbie Ruiz, is part of an international education program that brings together students and Nobel Peace Prize laureates. As the students explain it, most wars are fought over natural resources, so their club aims to prevent war by protecting natural resources.

Ponderosa High School students from Parker, Colo., share the history of their environmental PeaceJam club.

The PeaceJam Club members launched an energy management program at their school, Ponderosa High School, that has saved $320,000 in energy costs over the last four years. The program became a model that has spread to schools across Douglas County School District, resulting in a 24 percent energy reduction and saving $11 million.

Ponderosa building engineer Carey Kalisch, also an AFT member, has spearheaded room-by-room HVAC scheduling using digital controls, and energy savings by cutting down on the number and type of lights. But it's not all on him. One student explained that it's "really important to be polite to teachers" when requesting fewer overhead lights in a classroom. Teachers will be persuaded, he said, when they see that the result is calmer kids and fewer headaches.

Beyond energy savings, Ponderosa PeaceJammers students also have mounted an enormous recycling program, reversing their school's ratio of garbage to recycling. Ponderosa now recycles 81 percent of its trash stream. The kids have helped organize several electronics recycling events that have seen nearly 500,000 pounds of electronics collected to be recycled responsibly. The PeaceJam Club won a $10,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind for Schools Program to install a wind turbine, and Ruiz wants to build an outdoor classroom nearby.

"These kids get it," says Ruiz. "They’re not interested in the usual teenage things or consumed by the usual teenage angst. They realize the world is a bigger place and they have a responsibility to make it a better place."

Among other AFT delegations at the conference, members of the Denver Federation for Paraprofessionals and Nutrition Service Employees took away some useful lessons from organic food vendors, said local president Bernie Jiron. The most useful was learning about the advantages of gluten-free food in preventing asthma and allergy attacks, particularly in children with disabilities.

And educators attending a session by David Sobel of Antioch University learned that teachers may be frightening little children inadvertently with stories about how humans are wrecking the earth—without saying what kids can do to help. Sobel urged educators to train students as environmental stewards, beginning with getting kindergartners outside to play in the natural environment.

New York State United Teachers leaders from Rochester helped run the AFT booth, distributing information about healthy school buildings, indoor air quality and green jobs, as well as featuring models of green walls by the Bronx Green Machine.

At the general session, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan drew applause by calling for environmental literacy in the upcoming ESEA reauthorization. U.S. Department of Agriculture official Janey Thornton spoke about the federal government's healthy food initiatives for schools. And community activist Majora Carter wowed the crowd with a presentation about the greening of her rundown neighborhood in New York City.

The BlueGreen Alliance is a coalition of labor unions, including the AFT, the Steelworkers, the United Auto Workers and others, and environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Other allies at the conference included the National Wildlife Federation's Eco-Schools USA program, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools and the Center for Green Schools , which is preparing for its Green Apple Day of Service on Sept. 29. [Annette Licitra]

March 6, 2012 from the American Federation of Teachers

Posted In: Green Schools, American Federation of Teachers, National Wildlife Federation

The following post is from David Hecker, the President of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan.

VPHecker

A few weeks ago, before a joint session of Congress, President Obama outlined the American Jobs Act and said, “…there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school — and we can give it to them, if we act now.”

We couldn’t agree more. Across this state, children in Michigan experience what children all around this country experience every day: schools that desperately needrenovation and modernization. Meanwhile, more than 10 percent of Michiganders are unemployed. There is a way we can address both jobs and the inadequate condition of many of our schools. We can modernize them and make them more energy efficient, providing safer, healthier places for our children to learn.

The average American school is over 40 years old, and nearly a quarter of them require extensiverepair just to meet basic health and safety standards. Across the nation, 15,000 schools have air that had been deemed unfit to breathe, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). These are the rooms that our kids sit in for hours every day during the school year, working to learn the skills andknowledge that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

In his jobs bill, President Obama is proposing $25 billion to modernize America’s schools. Here in Michigan, that could mean about $926 million of improvements to ourschools, making them more energy efficient and creating good construction, design, maintenance and other jobs in the process. That’s thousands of people being put to work making our schools healthy and safe.

Modernizing our schools will also save taxpayers in the long run. Modern, green schools use 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than older schools. Needless to say, that significantly reduces utility costs. On average, energy-efficient, green schools save $100,000 per year on operating costs — enough to hire at least one new teacher, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 textbooks. If every new U.S. school construction and renovation utilized these greener, modern construction methods today, the total energy savings alone would be $20 billion over the next 10 years.

To create a brighter future for our children, we need to provide them with the best possible education we can. That means investing in our workforce, not cutting the state’s education funding by $1 billion. That means attracting new teachers and working to keep our current teachers in the profession, not denying teachers a voice on the job. And that means ensuring that our children attend 21st century schools that provide a safe and healthy learning environment.

Leaders in Lansing should focus on closing our state’s unemployment gap and passing policies to modernize and renovate our schools, not on squeezing the teachers who educate Michigan’s kids. It’s time to make a positive step forward for Michigan’s children, educators and communities.

The American Jobs Act and the nationwide effort to renovate and modernize our schools will provide cleaner, safer and healthier learning environments for our children and educators here in Michigan. What’s more, it will create sorely needed jobs that can change Michigan’s economy for the long-run.

We have great students, and we have skilled workers ready to upgrade schools across the state. Now we just need the political will in Lansing and Washington to make it happen.

Posted In: Michigan, Green Schools, American Federation of Teachers

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten posted the following blog on DailyKOS outlining the BlueGreen Alliance Principles on Green Schools and Environmental Education. You can view the original post here.

Today’s students will inherit the awesome task of competing in a global economy while dealing with resource and energy shortages and creating solutions for climate change.

It is the responsibility of the nation’s public schools to prepare our children well and give them the strong civic and academic foundation, as well as the occupational skills and environmental literacy, they will need. To succeed despite the current budgetary woes, we must invest, not disinvest, in a well-rounded, well-supported education and in school buildings that are healthy, high-performing, sustainable, well-lit, well-ventilated and safe.

Aside from providing a huge health benefit to students and staff, constructing, renovating and maintaining sustainable school buildings are key components to an overall plan to create “green collar” jobs that will put Americans to work and give our economy a sorely needed boost.

As we start a new school year, the BlueGreen Alliance today released its “Policy on Green Schools and Environmental Education” to provide a blueprint for Congress as it works to make education a priority through reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This set of policy principles focuses on the short- and long-term benefits that can be achieved by greening our school facilities and educating our kids about their environment.

The labor and environmental groups that make up the BlueGreen Alliance believe that building truly green schools involves more than renovating and updating school facilities. We must stop narrowing the curriculum to simply those subjects tested by standardized tests, and instead renovate it to ensure that students are taught an appreciation for the environment, along with the knowledge and skills they will need as part of the 21st-century workforce.

The green approach is working in places like award-winning West Philadelphia High School’s Automotive Academy, where students apply their math and science lessons to build solar-powered cars from the ground up, and the Rosa Parks School in Portland, Ore., a LEED Gold-certified green school, where the improved air quality has resulted in better attendance and fewer sick days for staff and students.

The policies that will help achieve this broad vision of green schools include:

Green and Healthy School Facilities. Not only are green school buildings the best learning environments, they are a great long-term financial investment. On average, green school facilities save $100,000 a year in maintenance costs—enough to hire two new teachers, buy 200 more computers or purchase 5,000 textbooks.

  • The administration and Congress should support the Green Ribbon Schools program proposed by the Department of Education to set a high benchmark for school greening.
  • Congress should provide grants to state and local education agencies to renovate schools to enhance energy efficiency, remove toxic chemicals and improve indoor air quality.
  • The administration and Congress should provide grants for modernization and construction of school facilities designated to receive Impact Aid funding—aid for school districts that include federal lands in their boundaries that aren’t part of the tax rolls—prioritizing projects that enhance efficiency, air quality and water conservation, and use sustainable building materials.
  • The administration and Congress should provide financial support for school building construction or renovation to schools on or near American Indian reservations and Indian land trusts.

Environmental Education as Part of a Rich Curriculum. Fiscal crises in the states and an emphasis on standardized test scores have led many schools and districts to jettison subjects such as music, art and outdoor education. To be globally competitive, our children must be exposed to a broad and rich curriculum that:

  • Incorporates a strong STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program with a good environmental focus.
  • Educates kids about the consequences of climate change, how we can adapt, and what action we can take to mitigate it.
  • Encourages participation in outdoor learning programs. A study by the California Department of Education shows that participation in outdoor experiential learning leads to significant improvements in science test scores and classroom behavior.
  • Teaches the concept of sustainability in terms of our environmental, economic and occupational health goals grounded in the principles of social justice.

Mutual Responsibility for Ensuring Our Students’ Success. Accountability is a word often used today, but responsibility for what happens in our public schools must extend to parents, principals, administrators and communities—in addition, of course, to teachers and students. All of us have a role to play in ensuring that students and staff work and learn in a healthy environment; that staff are qualified and are provided a rich curriculum, adequate resources and time to teach; and that measuring the effectiveness of the delivery of education take into account all the factors that affect student achievement.

 

Further, the report suggests schools should provide more opportunities to explore the vocational and technical careers that will address the need for “green collar” workers in the 21st century.

Jobs21!, coordinated by the BlueGreen Alliance, is a national grass-roots campaign for good jobs in the 21st-century economy. By having our children attend green schools—preparing them with occupational skills and environmental education, in a safe and healthy school environment—we are preparing the next generation to be competitive in a cleaner, more efficient global economy.

Randi Weingarten is the president of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers, committed to improving schools, hospitals and public institutions for children, families and communities.

Posted In: Green Schools, American Federation of Teachers
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