Ten leading associations representing state school boards, superintendents, principals, facility planners, architects, parents, and teachers are joining with the U.S. EPA to address energy issues in the nation's K-12 schools in conjunction with EPA's Energy Star Challenge.

Schools across the United States are facing higher energy prices this winter. Currently, the nation's 17,000 K-12 schools spend $1.3 billion on heating bills during the winter months - a cost that may rise by nearly 40% this year, says EPA. This increase alone is equivalent to more than 10,000 teacher salaries.

However, school districts can save up to 30% on their energy bills each year while preventing greenhouse gas emissions and improving learning environments through cost-effective energy efficiency improvements, EPA says. To encourage greater investments in efficiency, EPA is working with the following associations: National School Boards Association (NSBA), Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI), Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) International, Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS), National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project, National Energy Foundation (NEF), Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) - Green Schools and Campuses, and American Solar Energy Society (ASES) - Legacy Schools.

Through the Energy Star Challenge, school decision-makers assess how much energy school districts use now, establish efficiency improvement goals of 10% or greater district-wide, and make efficiency improvements wherever cost effective. EPA will recognize individual school districts that achieve a 10, 20, or 30% improvement as Energy Star Leaders.

To date, the following six school districts have earned the Energy Star Leaders distinction: Colorado Springs School District 11, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Rochester City School District, Rochester, N.Y.; South Colonie Central School District, Albany, N.Y.; Independent School District 197, Mendota Heights, Minn.; Gresham-Barlow School District, Oregon; and York County School Division, Virginia.

Information on the Energy Star Challenge and K-12 schools is available at www.energystar.gov.