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House Passes School Modernization Bill with Classroom Acoustics Provisions

Provisions allowing school districts to address classroom noise and acoustics in their school buildings remained intact in H.R.2187, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, as the U.S. House of Representatives considered fourteen amendments and approved the bill 275-155. H.R. 2187 would authorize $6.4 billion for school renovation and modernization projects for fiscal year 2010 and would ensure that school districts quickly receive funds for projects that improve schools' teaching and learning climates, health and safety, and energy efficiency. The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has been working with several congressional offices over a number of months to improve and expand schools abilities to address excessive noise and poor acoustics in their classrooms. Similar legislation (H.R. 3021) that was considered by the House last year contained no reference to noise or acoustics. H.R.2187 now allows allow federal grants to be used by districts to take, "measures designed to reduce or eliminate human exposure to classroom noise and environmental noise pollution." Further during consideration of H.R.2187 in the Education and Labor Committee, Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) offered a two-word amendment allowing schools to use money on "ceilings [and] flooring", key elements in addressing noise and acoustics in a building.

During Representative Sestak's remarks on his amendment he informed the committee that he was late to the markup because he was visiting with his daughter's audiologist. He indicated that his daughter is recovering from surgery for a brain tumor and is receiving chemotherapy which has resulted in some degree of hearing loss. Sestak further noted that his congressional district is in the flight path of Philadelphia International Airport with planes flying as low as 500 feet above the ground. He has received reports of children not being able to hear in their schools and has been fighting with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on noise abatement.

ASHA also worked with Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) to provide further direction for the classroom noise provisions in the bill's report language that reads: "The Committee encourages school districts that undertake projects to reduce or eliminate human exposure to classroom noise and environmental noise pollution, and the Secretary, in providing technical assistance concerning reducing background noise and reverberation in classrooms, to consider the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved Standard S12.60- 2002, [Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for School]."

Further information on the bill can be found on the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor  Web site. For additional information, please contact Neil Snyder, ASHA's Director of Federal Advocacy, at   800-498-2071   , ext. 5614 or nsnyder@asha.org.


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