- The Texas Senate has approved a $100 million, two-year construction spending program for both district and charter schools, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
- State officials said there is a waiting list to get into charter schools and that the facilities are at a disadvantage because they, unlike conventional school districts, cannot levy property taxes to pay for new construction. According to the bill, school districts and charter schools will get $50 million each.
- Both the state House and Senate still must authorize the measure's addition to the budget. School districts that have seen significant property value growth will not receive additional money as a result of the bill.
Critics of charter school funding opposed the measure, arguing that they don't have to meet the same standards that school districts do. Currently, charter schools' construction projects must come out of pocket or rely on donations.
Texas, which has several cities seeing a major influx of new residents, already has a fairly aggressive school construction program, and Balfour Beatty was awarded two contracts for school projects in the state — totaling more than $200 million — over the last several months, with both highlighting sustainability and energy efficiency.
In October, the Highland Park Independent School District in Dallas awarded the company a $110 million contract to renovate one school and build four new ones, all designed by Stantec.
The second contract — at $100 million — calls for a 500,000-square foot renovation and expansion to Cleburne High School in the Cleburne Independent School District. As part of that project, Balfour Beatty will use dimmable lighting, floor-to-ceiling windows and motion sensors to promote energy conservation. It will also undertake construction of a two-story science building, a two-story classroom wing, an alternative school, a career tech center and a library.
Sustainability and efficiency, however, are not goals specific only to school districts in Texas. Schools across the country are trying to take advantage of the cost savings that come with high-performance design, as well as attempting to make their facilities more environmentally friendly. For example, in January, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced the $1 billion Build BPS (Boston Public Schools) initiative, which is a 10-year program to modernize city schools with new technology and energy-efficient systems.