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—Courtesy of Terry Shapiro

Head of the Class

How Colorado has helped fund construction of new, LEED-certified schools.

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In recent years, Colorado has suffered all kinds of school-funding wisecracks, and voters’ shellacking of last year’s Amendment 66, a proposed nearly $1 billion tax increase for K–12 public education, only made things worse. (See “Minding The Bottom Line,” page 92, to find out how five Denver elementary schools are functioning after the amendment went down.) Yet surprisingly, amid the dismal economic climate of the past few years, Colorado has quietly established itself as a national leader in a different kind of education reform: going green. Since 2008, when the state Legislature implemented the Colorado Department of Education’s (CDE) Building Excellent Schools Today program, we’ve constructed 17 new LEED-certified schools statewide. CDE runs the competitive grant, which helps pay for a new facility as long as the building meets any level of LEED certification. (The Legislature funds the program primarily with State Land Trust money.) This month, Colorado educators and politicians gather in downtown Denver for the eighth annual Green School Summit to discuss how to keep the state on the forefront of building green schools. “Six years ago, we were starting to realize how dire the situation was,” says Patti Mason, director of advocacy for the Colorado chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. “Certain buildings weren’t safe to be in.” Now, Mason says, Colorado is leading the way in the green schools movement. Maybe we’ll get the last laugh after all.

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