Advocates Call for Funding US EPA Healthy Schools Programs

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Children at Risk: Parents, School Leaders, Environment and Health Groups Join Forces to Improve Learning Places for Children

WASHINGTON - eTradeWire -- As summer draws to a close, and schools across the country gear up for the new school year, the Coalition for Healthier Schools is calling on Congress to make healthy learning environments a national priority. This year's Back to School Day of Action is Tuesday, August 13th.

"The country is divided, but we all agree that children are the future," said Healthy Schools Network Executive Director Claire Barnett. "For this year's national Back to School Day, we are calling on Congress to invest in the health of our children and their places of learning. Our children spend nearly a third of their lives in schools and childcare. Congress must invest in EPA's proven programs that have helped school nationwide save money by preventing facility problems and by educating communities about why every child should have a healthy school."

David Lewis, Executive Director, Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO), representing thousands of school leaders nationally, said: "No one should have to worry about the condition of their schools or if public health hazards are present. As parents, teachers, administrators, and district leaders prepare for students to return to school, we must all do our part to provide healthful learning environments. We need to work together at the local, state, and federal level to ensure students have access to safe and healthy school facilities."

The 2019 Healthy Schools Day and Beyond full press release and Toolkit with action tips for schools, parents and others is now available for those interested in cleaning up and greening up activities year long, at http://www.healthyschools.org/Coalition/. The Back to School and Beyond Toolkit focuses on three key topics:

-       Rebuilding America's Schools, with background on US EPA's successful grants programs to help prevent and or address problems

-       Take Care of Your School, with a checklist on what to look for, tips on how to address molds and moisture, lead in water, and improve indoor air

-       Safer Products for Schools, with several fact sheets on how to find cost-effective and safer materials for use in schools

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The Coalition is seeking $65 million, or $1/child enrolled in schools and in childcare, for EPA's schools/childcare-related efforts. Sixty-five million dollars is less than a rounding error at EPA. This year, the House of Representatives proposed expanding support for EPA in FY 20, but it did not specifically address the grants initiative. The Senate has not yet marked up the EPA budget for FY 20. It is expected to do so this fall.

For more information on the environmental problems of schools in the states, visit www.HealthySchools.org and read Towards Healthy Schools: Reducing Risks to Children, an indicator report with state by state data and policies.

Deirdre Imus, President and Founder of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® at Hackensack University Medical Center (NJ) and Co-Founder/Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer, said: "The environment in which children learn is as important as what they learn. If kids are being subjected to toxic exposures at school, not only does it lead to increased absences, it can disrupt focus, motivation, and performance. Hazards such as lead, asbestos, and other indoor pollutants have no business being in our schools, and it is frankly ridiculous that we have to continually beg for attention to be called to this important matter."

Daniela Kunz, Founder and President, Parents For Students Safety (TN), said: "Children spend 7 hours average in school each day, multiplied times 187 days per school year. As schools become increasingly laden with more and more toxic chemicals, unhealthy and off-gassing materials in the buildings or from school supplies, the issue of toxins in schools becomes ever more crucial. We can do better when we all know how to contribute to a safer school environment and safer product options to protect students' health. Our grassroots organization, Parents For Students Safety, supports funding to help schools learn more about managing chemicals. It supports safer school supplies and non-toxic learning spaces for our students and safer workplaces for teachers and school employees."

Tracy Gregoire, Healthy Children Project Coordinator, Learning Disabilities Association of America, based in Maine, said: "Schools and childcare facilities should be safe, healthy environments for all children. But we know that our children can be exposed to harmful toxins like lead in school drinking water and hazardous chemicals in building materials and products that are contributing to learning, attention, and other disabilities like autism. These exposures are compounded for schools and childcare facilities that are located in areas with bad air pollution or sited by industries that use hazardous chemicals. In order to reduce these chemical exposures and protect our children's health and their learning potential, we are asking Congress to support $65 million for the EPA's Healthy Schools Initiative."

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Francine Locke, Director, Sustainability & Green Schools, School District of Philadelphia (PA), said: "Public schools require consistent and adequate funding to address the facility conditions that impact children's academic performance, health and wellness. Over time, school buildings will deteriorate resulting in mold, dampness, and, in older buildings, damaged asbestos and lead-based paint. Our district used EPA's guidance to inform our efforts to improve facilities. There is much more to do. Climate change is accelerating this deterioration due to extreme weather conditions such as heatwaves, high humidity and severe storms. It is time to invest in our children and their places of learning to provide a sustainable future."

Elisabeth Krautscheid, Managing Director, Collaborative for High Performance Schools (Sacramento and Boston), said: "The Collaborative for High Performance Schools supports the Healthier Schools Day Action Kit through its guidelines, tools, and resources. Our CHPS Criteria, originally seeded with US EPA grants, today set robust standards for schools for indoor air quality, natural lighting, acoustics, energy efficiency, and the use of low-odor building materials. All of these not only make our school buildings safer and healthier, but also provide beautiful, comfortable, and stimulating spaces for our children to learn. For Back to School Day activities, CHPS has launched a free and open use Knowledge Library on its website.

Brent Ibata, PhD, JD, MPH, FACHE, author of Public Health Law and the Built Environment in American Public Schools, said: "While no amount of money will be able to remove all possible hazards from the environment surrounding our nation's children – a small amount of money would be able to help school understand how to identify and address many of the hazards. There exists a 'clear and present danger' that our schools are not adequately preparing our nation's children to compete in the new global economy. As Horace Mann observed over 150 years ago, '[t]he excuses and contrivances of the children to stay away from a repulsive, unhealthful schoolhouse' is a natural reaction to schoolhouses that are 'odious to the sight, and painful to the bodies and limbs, of the pupils.'"

Tracey Ritchie, Director of Education, Earth Day Network, said: "Earth Day Network is thrilled to welcome back students and teachers to the 2019-2020 school year. We know that students and teachers need healthy, green schools to be successful, but far too many of our educational facilities have been ignored and are no longer safe places to learn. We ask that you help support funding for EPA's voluntary grants programs to ensure all educators and students have clean and healthy environments for learning."

The Coalition for Healthier Schools is a loosely held entity, focused on federal policies and convened by Healthy Schools Network, a not for profit. Coalition members have called on members of Congress to expand funds for US EPA's program for children and for schools, and in the past have championed the restoration of funds to US EPA and an authorization for US EPA, as well as an authorization for Education, which resulted in the agency's one and only report on how school facilities impact children's health and learning.

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Contact
Claire L. Barnett
***@healthyschools.org


Source: HEALTHY SCHOOLS NETWORK
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