Rep. Hayes Introduces Legislation to Protect Health of America's School Children

July 26, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Senator Kamala Harris (CA), and Congressmembers Julia Brownley (CA-26), Jim Costa (CA-16), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02), Mike Levin (CA-49), Jim Himes (CT-04), and John Larson (CT-01) introduced H.R. 3973, the Clean School Bus Act. This legislation would provide $1 billion to help school districts across the country replace traditional school buses with electric ones. By reducing students’ exposure to diesel exhaust, the bill would significantly cut down on asthma-related health incidents, increase attendance, and provide long-term savings to school districts.

Every day, more than 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers breathe polluted air during their commute to school, which has a negative impact on student health and attendance, particularly for students with asthma and other respiratory conditions. The Clean School Bus Act would provide grants of up to $2 million for school districts to replace diesel buses with electric ones, invest in charging infrastructure, and support workforce development.

Rep. Hayes said: “As a teacher, many of my students were chronically absent. What I discovered was disturbing. The number one reason students were absent was asthma-related hospital visits. Children should not have to trade their health for an education. I thank Senator Harris and my colleagues in the House for joining me in standing for America’s school children.”

Sen. Harris said: “Our children deserve a healthy environment to learn and grow—at school, at home, and everywhere in between. I’m proud to work with Rep. Hayes on the Clean School Bus Act, which will clean the air our students breathe and help fight the climate crisis. We must take action to protect our students.”

Rep. Brownley said: “Ensuring our nation’s children can live and learn in a healthy environment is of the utmost importance to me. Clean school buses will not only help ensure that the air our children breathe on the way to school is cleaner and free of harmful pollutants, but greener buses will also help transition our transportation systems towards 21st Century clean-energy technology that will help give our children a stronger and healthier future. I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation and look forward to working with Congresswoman Hayes to move this legislation forward.”

Rep. Costa said: “The San Joaquin Valley is home to some of the worst air quality in the nation, putting our residents at risk of developing serious illnesses. Children fare even worse when they breathe in the toxic fumes from buses every day on the way to and from school. The Clean School Bus Act has the potential to take 2500 buses off the road in our valley alone, a huge first step in tackling this problem. Supporting this bill continues my fight to find new and innovative ways to improve the air we breathe.”

Rep. García said: “The Clean School Bus Act ensures children – especially those in diverse communities like the ones I represent – are not exposed to harmful, toxic fumes on today’s outdated school fleets. The safety of the air our children breathe while they ride a school bus is a matter of public health and common sense. Children deserve protection from the harmful particulates and fumes from today’s aging diesel fleet and they deserve a world without the looming threat of climate change. That’s why I am proud to join my colleague and former educator Rep. Jahana Hayes and Senator Kamala Harris in introducing this pro-health, pro-environment, and pro-school bus safety legislation.”

Rep. Kirkpatrick said: “Busing millions of children to and from school every day has a sizable impact on emissions nationwide. This is an investment not only in the health of our children, but in our long term environmental future. As a grandmother and former teacher, I am proud to work on legislation that addresses both family and environmental health.”

Rep. Levin said: “Those of us who grew up in Southern California remember the smog alerts and the grey air that would burn your lungs. We’ve made progress in addressing that pollution, but diesel exhaust from school buses are still contributing to asthma and other health problems among children. Transitioning to electric vehicles is a common sense step we need to take to protect our air and health, and I am proud to introduce the Clean School Bus Act with Congresswoman Hayes.”

Rep. Himes said: “This bill means cleaner air for all of us, but specifically for children who are around school buses every day.  Students with asthma and other reparatory conditions suffer the most because of air pollution, and investing in cleaner technologies to give them healthier, longer lives is the right thing to do. Thank you to Representative Hayes for leading this important effort.”

Rep. Larson said: “Buses powered by dirty fuel expose our children to pollutants every day, putting their health and their ability to learn at risk. This legislation is an investment in the future, supporting our students and our environment. As a former teacher and longtime supporter of clean energy buses, I applaud Representative Hayes for her leadership on this issue.”

The Clean School Bus Act is supported by the American Federation of Teachers, American Lung Association, League of Conservation Voters, National Education Association, Chispa – Clean Buses for Healthy Niños (Connecticut), Connecticut Fund for the Environment / Save the Sound, Connecticut Institute for Resilience & Climate Adaptation, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Green For All, Hispanic Access Foundation, Waterbury Youth Services, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the California Association of School Transportation Officials (CASTO).

Curt Johnson (President, Connecticut Fund for the Environment / Save the Sound): “Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound applauds Congresswoman Jahana Hayes for introducing the Clean School Bus Act. Electrifying school buses that replace old dirty diesel buses provides big benefits. It cuts global warming pollution from transportation, the sector spewing the most carbon into our state’s air. Neighbors who suffer from asthma will breathe easier because their air will have less soot. And our kids who are most vulnerable to air pollution will be healthier because the air both inside and outside their school buses will be cleaner. An environmental and public health triple header!”

Leticia Colon de Mejias (Director, Chispa Connecticut): “The number of children in underrepresented communities suffering from asthma and other respiratory illnesses is staggering. Fumes from diesel powered school buses disproportionately impact our children's health. Chispa Connecticut applauds Rep. Hayes for standing up for our children and calling for clean school buses. These grants will improve our air quality, protect our children, and result in lowered healthcare costs. It is time to invest in our infrastructure and make clean public transportation a reality. We need leaders like Rep. Hayes who are focused on equitable solutions to the problems we face and who take actionable steps to solve these problems.”

Luke Tonachel (Clean Vehicles Director, Natural Resources Defense Council): “Our children deserve clean, pollution-free rides to school. Congress should act on this measure soon to accelerate the deployment of electric school buses, which will help ensure our children have clean air and a healthy climate.”

Michelle Romero (National Director, Green For All): “Tailpipe emissions from diesel buses put the health of our kids and communities at risk of asthma, cancer, and pollution-related disease. It's time we put our kids on buses going forward to a clean energy future, which is why Green For All is proud to support Representative Hayes's Clean School Bus Act. Not only would this bill help schools transition to zero-emission electric buses, it would prioritize those serving low-income neighborhoods to help give every kid a clean, safe ride to school.”

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*A copy of the bill can be seen here: https://hayes.house.gov/sites/hayes.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/Clean%20School%20Bus%20Act%20Final%20Bill%20Text.pdf

Rep. Jahana Hayes has been a public school teacher in Connecticut for more than 15 years and was recognized in 2016 as the National Teacher of the Year. Currently serving her first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Hayes sits on the Committees on Education & Labor and Agriculture and proudly represents Connecticut’s 5th District, including parts of Litchfield, Hartford, Fairfield, and New Haven counties.