Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thoughts From the Road

I am sitting here in the Pocket House ("an urban cabin in Portland's back yard" - more on that definitely to come) and probably just have a few moments before being inundated with babies who are starting to wake at this moment.

This weekend in Washington D.C. is the Save Our Schools March, a march by teachers and parents who want to turn back the tide of trends in education reform (accountability, school choice, etc.). I'm not going to explain why I think they are off base, because that's a much longer rant than I have time for. However, yesterday on the plane I was thinking about how one problem - the problem of teachers being laid off due to the recession - might be somewhat mitigated.

I was sitting next to a first-grade teacher from Minnesota who was also very environmentally-minded. She teaches in a small school district where they had retro-fitted their schools to produce less trash and use less energy. One of the main steps they took was regulating the temperature in the schools. And in one quarter, they saved $60,000! For their little district of around 6 schools, that could be three teachers' salaries.

For years I've been saying that in my school district, if they turned the temp up a few degrees, they could save a LOT of money. They kept the school so cold during Houston's spring and fall, and during summer school, that students wore jackets inside. So just think, a few of the teachers they laid off this year might have been saved - and they would have been helping the environment.

I don't think this is the solution to the economic problems in school districts, but I do think that leveraging environmental solutions could make a big difference throughout the government. Not only that, but JOBS would be created. No, we won't solve our economic crisis simply through the green sector, but we have to start thinking past our current mindsets if we're going to get out of this mess.

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