Students Can't Learn If They Can't Breathe
It should be basic that we do not make children breathe dirty air in order to get to school. Yet, that is what our kids have had to do for decades while travelling on old, polluting school buses.
Today, I introduced the Clean School Bus Act, which would establish a grant program authorized for up to $1 billion dollars over five years for school districts, particularly those with lower-income students, to replace diesel school buses with electric school buses.
Applications from schools with lower-income students and student populations receiving free or reduced-price lunches would be prioritized, along with applications from areas where a grant would reduce the most emissions possible in comparison with other applicants.
This issue is personal for me. Waterbury Public Schools is a Title 1 school district, with 72% of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch. When I was a teacher in Waterbury, many of our students were chronically absent. When we decided to conduct a study to find out what was causing our kids to stay home from school, what we learned was disturbing.
The #1 reason our students were absent from school was asthma-related hospital visits.
In other words, my students were not learning because they could not breathe.
This bill would provide funds so that students like mine would not have to breathe dirty air to get an education.
However, it would not just be students that benefit. Transportation accounts for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.
School buses, which make up roughly 90% of the nation’s bus fleet and are the nation’s largest form of mass transit, traveled roughly 3.3 billion miles in 2017.
Electric buses already produce fewer emissions than diesel buses in every state, and have a more efficient life cycle with lower operations and maintenance costs.
It is time we do better for our students. Electric school buses is a first step to ensuring our children lead longer, healthier, lives with every opportunity for success.
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