One of the most important roles of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC is advocating for policies at the federal, state and school board levels that enable schools to progress in the "three pillars" of a green school: reducing environmental impact of the school environment, improving student and teacher health and performance and increasing sustainability literacy.
From the meetings of the founding fathers to today’s biggest policy battles, state governments have always been the most central jurisdiction in the United States. They are the entities that grant power to the federal government, and this unique aspect of the American experiment means that states are often the most effective vehicle for enabling social and political change. Though their direct control over schools is limited, state governments can be crucial catalysts that set high expectations, encourage action and facilitate access to the support that schools need.
The Center for Green Schools provides expertise and information to a large network of state legislators interested in policies and action to support green schools. Each year, we host an in-person workshop at the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators to help these legislators strategize the coming year.
The list below provides an overview of the types of resources available to this network from USGBC’s Center for Green Schools and Advocacy teams; these are updated regularly and form the backbone of our work with lawmakers. Core resources about green buildings and infrastructure, more generally, are available from USGBC’s Advocacy team. USGBC also has local staff and volunteers around the country who work toward improving buildings and community infrastructure in their own backyards. To discover what communities are near you, visit the USGBC directory of regions.
Example policies and practices
- The Green Schools Menu of Options for State Legislators provides options and examples to legislators for policies that can be enacted to support green schools in their states. The sample policies are divided into the three pillars of a green school: reducing environmental impact, improving occupant health and performance, and increasing sustainability literacy. USGBC also offers the Public Policy Library for people to search for green building policies by type and by state.
- Greening Our Schools: A State Legislator’s Guide to Best Policy Practices is a toolkit for state legislators to support policy solutions for greening the schools in their states.
School facilities information
- The 2016 State of Our Schools report provides a detailed state-by-state analysis of K–12 school infrastructure financing in the U.S. The report exposes a $46 billion annual shortfall in school facilities funding across the country. Following the State of Our Schools report, working groups of school facilities experts convened over the course of eight months to propose a menu of solutions at the federal, state and local levels. These recommendations can be found in the report Adequate and Equitable U.S. PK–12 Infrastructure: Priority Actions for Systemic Reform.
- The Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Performance pulls together findings from dozens of studies over the past 20 years to illustrate the various impacts that buildings have on student health and learning, including how they hear, breathe, see, feel, think, learn and move. Additional research can be found in the Harvard School of Public Health’s paper Schools for Health, released in 2017.
Policy summaries and analysis
- Perspectives on Implementation and Effectiveness of School Green Cleaning Laws summarizes existing state laws and uses national survey data and original research to provide an analysis on the effectiveness of the laws and give guidance for future efforts.
- State-level Legislation to Support Energy Efficiency: Dedicated Funding for Existing K–12 Schools offers a comparison of state laws that provide funding to support energy efficiency in existing schools. The report summarizes program data and stakeholder interviews to help lawmakers understand the pros and cons of each state’s approach.
- One solution for state-level policy to support school facilities investment is highlighted in the summary paper School Facilities Policy Spotlight: Georgia’s Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. The Georgia SPLOST enables localities to levy a small sales tax to pay for specific projects on public facilities, such as schools.
- Perspectives on State Legislation Concerning Lead Testing in School Drinking Water examines the effectiveness of existing state laws to help advocates and state legislators develop comprehensive laws to combat lead contamination in schools. The paper includes a table of bills that have been enacted, interviews with stakeholders and a point-by-point analysis of important elements of each law.
For more information, or to be added to the network of state legislators interested in green schools, please contact us.