Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Green Schools without Green

Maybe it’s just Illinois, where aiming-for-green schools can't seem to get growing. We are at the bottom now, in school funding by the state—49 of 49 (Nevada is out—its school funding comes largely from casinos). So when Senn sets out to recast its curriculum and programs as green initiatives, who will fund the shift? Our alderwoman, Mary Ann Smith, seems set on parlaying her office’s funding into high visibility projects—an auditorium overhaul is the latest plan.

Nothing wrong with visibility—Senn is hoping its new green and global sustainability projects get some of that, too. But the school’s plans were all developed openly, with plenty of discussion, even debate. The alderwoman simply announced hers—planning by decree!

In any case, Senn’s auditorium is in great shape and doesn’t need a redo, but the rest of the school is another matter. It needs everything from science labs and plaster wall repair, to class book and lap-top sets. It lacks enough social workers. It could use funding to make up for the over $300,000 in state funding cuts this year, that resulted in the loss of eight teachers and a security person. And then some.

Public schools are all about the environment these days, and they should be. Big plans are fantastic. But to get the work done, schools also need enough green.

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