The majority of America’s public school students, both young and old, probably have a plethora of memories to cherish from their experiences of riding the school bus.
Reminisce that dingy smell that hits your nose as soon as you step foot into the vehicle. That one window that requires the strength of 1,000 men to open. And the seat that gets closer and closer to losing all of its vinyl protection as students can’t help but peel a little bit off each day on their ride home.
As fond as those memories are, America’s school bus fleet is long overdue for a makeover. On Wednesday, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the investment of nearly $1 billion into cleaner and safer versions. The grant, which will be distributed to nearly 400 school districts spanning all 50 states, will allow districts to buy more than 2,400 clean school buses, 95% of which will be electric.
“President Biden’s historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is accelerating our nation’s transition to electric and low-emission school buses while ensuring a brighter, healthier future for our children,” said Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This is just the beginning of our work to build a healthier future, reduce climate pollution and ensure the clean, breathable air that all our children deserve.”
Twenty-five million schoolchildren ride the bus each day, according to Vice President Kamala Harris. Soon, they will climb aboard one that sets them up for a healthier future. “We are witnessing, around our country and around the world, extreme climate,” she said. “What we’re announcing today is a step forward in our nation’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gases, to invest in our economy… to invest in building the skills of America’s workforce. All with the goal of not only saving our children but, for them, saving our planet.”
Only 1% of America’s school buses were electric last year, the Associated Press reported. However, advocacy for a more efficient bus fleet has gained significant traction since then.
According to the EPA, $500 million was initially available for clean school buses in May. However, the agency received nearly 2,000 applications for more than 12,000 buses, primarily electric, prompting the need for additional funding for this initiative.
Public health groups are celebrating the announcement after years of advocacy.
“It doesn’t make sense to send our kids to school on buses that create brain-harming, lung-harming, cancer-causing, climate-harming pollution,” said Moll Rauch, public health policy director for Moms Clean Air Force, an environmental group. “Our kids, our bus drivers, and our communities deserve better.”