Senator Harkin calls on GAO for new survey on the condition of America's schools

Published on: 
23 Sep 2013
Nathaniel Allen

When we released the Center for Green Schools’ 2013 State of Our Schools Report, we had one objective in mind: to rally the community around the call to Congress to commission a comprehensive survey by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the condition of the nation’s school facilities – a study that hasn’t been done in a whopping 18 years.

We were impressed with how the community responded. From President Clinton who wrote a truly compelling forward in our report, to support from education heavy hitters like the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the National PTA, to the strongest voices for children’s health like the American Lung Association and the Healthy Schools Campaign, organizations and associations representing millions of educators, parents and school building professionals rallied behind this cause. 

I think we can all agree that 18 years is way too long. The last time this study was conducted, 15,000 schools were found to have air unfit to breathe. We can’t continue to ignore a problem just because we don’t understand the extent of it. Our students deserve better.  

Today, we are thrilled to announce that U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has formally requested the GAO to conduct a new survey to help identify the current conditions and needs around our school facilities.

In the months since we published the State of Our Schools Report, we’ve enjoyed working with Chairman Harkin’s team to advance the request to the GAO. While we’re very thankful for this tremendous step forward  the work is still just beginning. The very same community that rallied behind this call to action now looks forward to rallying behind the GAO to help conduct a truly comprehensive, detailed and factual report on the conditions of every school in America.

We know that the total dollars required just to bring our schools up to working order is likely to be a jaw dropping number – $271 billion is our conservative guess based on the careful methodology developed by our friend Mary Filardo at the 21st Century School Fund, the lead author of the 2013 State of Our Schools Report. Add to that the investment that would be required to bring our schools to today’s education, safety and health standards and we’re all going to have our work cut out for us.

We applaud Chairman Harkin for his longstanding commitment to transforming U.S. public schools into healthy, safe, resource efficient places to learn. Like the Senator, we believe that where our children learn matters. The Center for Green Schools at USGBC team, along with the vast community of supporters for this movement, look forward to working together to fix the schools that need fixing and ensure that within this generation, every child can learn in a school that enhances his or her education.

With special thanks to the following organizations that helped advance this request:

21st Century School Fund

American Architectural Foundation

American Federation of Teachers

American Institute of Architects

American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education

American Lung Association

American Society of Civil Engineers

American Society of Landscape Architects


BlueGreen Alliance

Campaign for Environmental Literacy

Council of Educational Facilities Planners International

Evangelical Environmental Network

Healthy Schools Campaign

Healthy Schools Network, Inc.

International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART)

National Association of School Nurses

National Association of State Energy Officials

National Education Association

National Education Association Health Information Network

National PTA

National School Supply and Equipment Association

National Wildlife Federation

U.S. Green Building Council