10/02/2014 05:39 pm ET Updated Dec 02, 2014

A New School Philosophy

Abraham Lincoln once said, "The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next." In that case, the next generation of policymakers in Washington will be well schooled in solar energy.

According to a groundbreaking report just released by The Solar Foundation, solar is helping power over 3,700 schools across America, cutting their utility bills by roughly $75 million. And that's just the beginning. Of 125,000 schools in the country, more than half of them (72,000) have the potential to choose solar to cut costs and use the savings to pay teacher salaries or enhance STEM programs.

Beyond helping balance school ledgers, solar arrays are enriching the curriculum. Whether learning about electricity costs and savings, the physics of photons and electrons, or the societal value of pollution avoidance, the lessons from a solar system are many. So while the school board of the Parkway School District in Missouri happily reallocates the $1 million in projected energy bill savings from its new solar system, the faculty is busy integrating the performance data from its solar array into lesson plans.

Solar presents a fresh opportunity for integrated solutions to the complex issues facing America's schools today. It's one altogether familiar process to study math, economics, social studies or science in a textbook. It's a whole new education philosophy to learn those lessons by studying a real-life power generator on the rooftop overhead, lessons taught by an educator whose very job is made possible by the savings it generates.

This is integrated learning. These are smart choices. The philosophy of finding creative answers to tough problems - as already seen in over 3,700 schools and growing - will benefit those students long after graduation. And with some luck, some of them may even find their way to Washington.