Monday, June 16, 2008

Goldwater Institute: An Open Mind about School Choice

"Green Schools" Legislation Deserves an "F"
Dan Lips

Every 26 seconds, a student drops out of high school in the United States. National test scores reveal that half of all low-income fourth graders cannot read. Given such alarming statistics, you'd think that helping at-risk kids would be the top education-related priority on Capitol Hill.

Apparently not. As far as Congress is concerned, the real problem with public education in America is that it's not environmentally friendly enough.

Last Wednesday, the House passed the "21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act." The Congressional Budget Office projects the program would cost $20.3 billion over five years.

For years, the "under-funding" of No Child Left Behind has been blamed for many problems in American education. But instead of focusing on hiring more teachers or giving more money to high-poverty schools, the House chose to invest in building environmentally friendly schools.

Of course, the Green Schools legislation isn't actually meant to improve education. The real purpose is to expand federal power, and give Congress more control over decisions once left to those at the local level. Anyone listening to the floor debate over H.R. 3021 might have thought they were watching a school-board meeting. Fixing the plumbing in your local public school shouldn't be a congressional concern.

Fortunately, President Bush is expected to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk, and Senate action is unlikely. So Americans shouldn't expect to see any federally mandated "green" schools soon. But it should serve as a preview of what Congress is planning for education. It may earn an "A" from some interest groups, but it deserves an "F" from parents and taxpayers.

Dan Lips is a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation and a senior fellow with the Goldwater Institute. A longer version of this article appeared on National Review Online.

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