House passes $6.4B 'green' schools bill

May 14, 2009 at 7:56 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 14 (UPI) -- A $6.4 billion school modernization bill that would commit funds for updating and building energy-efficient facilities passed the U.S. House Thursday.

Representatives approved the measure on a 275-155 that fell largely along party lines, CNN reported. The measure goes to the Senate for consideration.

Among other things, the bill would allocate funding for improvements along the Gulf Coast, where many school districts still are repairing buildings damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The legislation also would make schools part of the effort to boost the U.S. economy and fight global warming by "creating clean energy jobs that will help put workers in hard-hit industries back to work," the House Education and Labor Committee report said.

The bill would require that 100 percent of the funds be dedicated to green projects by 2015, the final year of funding.

"All students and teachers deserve safe and healthy learning environments, but too often, their schools are literally falling apart," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and one of the bill's chief sponsors.

Opponents criticized the bill's high cost and the increased role of the federal government in education.

"The federal government has always maintained a limited role in education, focusing on key academic priorities such as closing achievement gaps between disadvantaged students and their peers and ensuring services for children with disabilities," said Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., the committee's top Republican. "The construction and renovation of schools are among the most fundamental rights and responsibilities belonging to states and local communities."

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