The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the disparity in public schools, especially regarding things like clean air, electricity, and heating. The White House notes that public K-12 districts spend about $8 billion a year on energy bills, the second-largest expense after teacher salaries. Thankfully, there is a new initiative seeking to narrow the gap around the country.
As reported by The Hill, the Biden administration announced a $500 million grant program to address energy efficiency in public schools. This would make funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law directed primarily to underserved communities to improve their heating, ventilation, air conditioning, HVAC systems, and other energy upgrades. There will also be a deployment of new online guidance for the Clean School Bus Program that the bipartisan law puts toward energy-efficient school buses.
The U.S. Secretary of Energy, Jennifer M. Granholm, spoke about how essential it is for children to learn in environments that aren’t run down or crumbling.
“Children should be able to learn and grow in environments that are not plagued with poor insulation and ventilation, leaky roofs, or poor heating and cooling,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “President Biden fought for these funds to give schools and their communities the resources they need to improve student and teacher health and cut energy costs, allowing districts to focus more resources on student learning.”
On Monday night, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at Thomas Elementary School in Washington, D.C, to stress the importance of these actions.
“These grants will help schools reduce their energy costs significantly, savings that can be reinvested in the school to hire more teachers, to make long needed repairs or to invest in new technology to support learning,” Harris said.
“And at the same time these grants will create good-paying union jobs for electricians, carpenters, painters and more.”
There is an open Request for Information on how to best implement and distribute various awards from the program, which will remain open until May 18. A 2020 report by the Government Accountability Office found that half of U.S. public schools need to replace or update systems, such as HVAC or plumbing.