(Washington, DC, February 5, 2013) -- Leaders of the national Coaliton for Healthier Schools today presented a new national report, Towards Healthy Schools 2015, to the Obama Administration and Congress. The state by state data and policy report and analysis says “all school children should be considered at elevated risk of health and learning difficulties due solely to the unexamined and or unaddressed risks in their schools and the lack of public health services for children….”
Said John Shaw, Healthy Schools Network Board President, “There are signs of progress since we began these national reports in 2006, but the Administration and Congress must move more quickly to address risks to children. We can bend the health care cost curve and improve our children’s achievement.”
Said Charlotte Collins, VP, Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, “Unhealthy school conditions put children in harm’s way, force parents to take time off from work, and cost the nation untold millions in health care costs. This is a justice and equity problem that must be fixed”.
Commented Massachusetts Committee on Occupational Safety and Health’s Tolle Graham who directs its healthy schools initiative, “States and local school districts still have a long way to go to address the health effects of poorly maintained schools. We need our school staff unions and associations, asthma coalitions and parents to continue to act in their own states to expand upon other states’ successful guidance protocols and regulations for “green and healthy” school environments such as requiring the use of 3rd party certified green cleaning products and integrating indoor environmental quality into school policies and procedures”.
Said Jay Snyder, Association of School Business Officials – International, “ASBO International has trained countless school business officials on indoor air and indoor environmental quality. Our members are mindful that children spend most of their week in school buildings. We urge the agencies to coordinate their plans and funds accordingly to ensure that funds are available for pressing environmental issues that affect school district employees and students.”
Offered Claire Barnett, Healthy Schools Network’s Executive and Coalition coordinator, whose office developed the new report, “Children are our priority. Environmental problems like indoor pollution, PCBs, molds, and toxic chemicals, are absolute barriers to attendance and learning. They can undermine the aspirations of even the best parents. It is an unjust burden on children to endure months or years of poor conditions without any relief.”
ALL CHILDREN CONSIDERED AT RISK OF LEARNING DIFFICULTIES
Towards Healthy Schools 2015 cites multiple studies documenting the benefits of healthy indoor learning environments on attendance and achievement, then presents state-level data and policy summaries. A detailed narrative notes progress at US EPA and the Department of Education in encouraging states, but also urges swifter actions by fedreal and state agencies. See the full report at http://www.healthyschools.org/
There are more public schools buildings in the U.S., more children enrolled, more children with health and learning problems, but fewer children receiving special education than there were in 2006. But eleven states have adopted policies on the use of green cleaning products that can help reduce asthma. Twenty four states promote high performance and/or green school design standards. Yet, in this fiscal climate some states have significatntly decreased or even suspended funds for construction, and schools may have trimmed nursing and custodial staff.
The report urges that federal-state partnerships to reform conditions of schools be expanded. It also urges new preventive public health services for children, which according to pediatrician Jerome Paulson, MD, Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC, are “woefully inadequate”.
LETTER TO CONGRESS: CHILDREN ARE 100% OF OUR FUTURE
A Coalition letter to Congress was also released, urging full funding for US EPA’s Office of Children’s Health and the agency’s Indoor Air Quality and other schools-related voluntary programs. Citing the need for a “just and equitable” approach to the federal budget, the letter notes that “children are 100% of our future. But because children do not vote, it all too often means that the needs of children are easily dismissed or put aside for later deliberation.”
ADDITIONAL SUPPORTING STATEMENTS
Molly Rauch, with Moms Clean Air Force, said, "Children need clean air to learn, grow, and thrive. With our children spending seven or more hours a day in school facilities, it is so important that schools work toward clean air. Moms and dads want clean air in schools every day, for the sake of our kids."
National Association of Schools Nurses President Linda Davis-Aldritt said, “NASN accepts and acts on the inextricable link between children’s health and academic success. School nurses know that every child must have the opportunity to be successful and to learn in a healthy and safe school environment. Our future as a nation depends on it. States and school districts must make this a priority by investing in common-sense measures that address children’s health as it relates to environmental conditions in schools.”
National Education Association’
The Coalition for Healthier Schools is coordinated by Healthy Schools Network, a not for profit and the leading voice for children’s environmental health in schools. The Coalition held its eighth annual meeting in Washington, DC in January 2013, attended by fifty-four leaders from 36 state and national organizations, and from two federal agencies. Its members include environment, health, parent, environmental justice, and education groups and advocates nationally and in the states. Coalition members have shaped and won two federal laws and funds for school repairs and are active in advancing state reforms. For more information, see http://www.healthyschools.org/
To add your group's support to the letter to Congress, sign on at: http://bit.ly/
MEDIA CONTACT: Claire Barnett, 202-543-7555 (m)