By Jamila Bey
The White House is looking to improve facilities for American schoolchildren.
The Biden-Harris Action Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure and the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $500 million grant program for K-12 public school energy upgrades.
The program is designed to help deliver cleaner and healthier classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, playgrounds, and gyms to the more than 3 million teachers and 50 million students who work and learn in American schools.
President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s grant funding will also support additional improvements, repairs, and renovations, such as the installation of renewable energy technologies, the installation of alternative fueled vehicle infrastructure on school grounds, such as school buses, or the purchase or lease of alternative fueled vehicles to be used by a school.
The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s 100,000 public K-12 schools a D+ rating in their 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure report. They point out that poor quality school facilities can negatively affect student learning and health. Indoor air quality problems can aggravate respiratory illnesses, make it more likely that students and teachers contract illnesses that will lead them to miss class, and can even increase risk of transmission of respiratory illnesses including the COVID-19 virus.
Energy consumption is the second-highest operational expense schools face. Schools lose money due to energy loss from leaky school walls, windows, and other inefficient equipment and systems. It’s often the poorest districts that suffer the most. Rural, high-poverty, or Hispanic/Latino, African American and Native American communities experience the greatest burden of failing or antiquated school facilities.
The Biden-Harris program makes public schools eligible for energy improvements that result in a direct reduction in school energy costs, including improvements to the air conditioning and heating, ventilation, hot water heating, and lighting systems. In addition, funding would support any improvement, repair, renovation or installation in a school that leads to an improvement in teacher and student health.
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