Coalition Calls For Schools To Transition To Electric School Buses

June 23, 2022

A group of clean energy advocates on Wednesday called on the Legislature provide funding for schools to purchase electric school buses and urged school districts to take advantage of federal grant programs now.

The coalition met virtually to discuss the multiple opportunities for schools to transition to electric school buses. Mac Dashney, principal associate with the Pupil Transportation and Management Institute, said of the 800 school districts, seven districts have deployed 17 electric school busses.

“We’re proud to announce that one of our seven districts, Three Rivers Community Schools, recently got a national award as the Green School Bus Fleet in the nation. We have an eighth school district, Dearborn, who received a Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant to purchase an electric school bus,” Mr. Dashney added.

Katrina Morris, executive director for the Michigan Association of Pupil Transportation, said the VW fuel transportation grant program – which comes from the settlement between Volkswagen and the U.S. after the company violated the Clean Air Act – has seen several participants. A new round of grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also providing $5 billion over five years for zero and low emission school buses, with half of these dollars exclusively for electric school buses.

“The EPA’s clean bus program, coupled with Michigan state revenues and new policies, would make a greater impact now for a clean commute for our students,” Ms. Morris said. “The Legislature has two programs, $45 million through the House Appropriations Subcommittee and the second is a long-term solution with HB 5721 Trackand SB 859 Track.”

She said the bills sponsored by Rep. Christine Morse (D-Texas Township) and Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), respectively, would allow for the purchase of school buses through the sinking fund, thus keeping the money in the classrooms for students.

Jane McCurry, executive director of Clean Fuels Michigan, said the transition to electric buses would also be good economically. She said her organization has members located in Michigan who employ hundreds of Michiganders to design, build, market, sell and service their products in the clean school bus industry.

“The council is asking for $45 million for electric school and transit buses, the charging infrastructure to refuel them and hands on assistance to public school districts and transit agencies across the state,” Ms. McCurry said, urging state legislators to adopt the proposal as the budget process enters its final stages.

Other panelists said they would work through their organizations to help school districts with grants from the EPA and reiterated that they welcome additional funding from the state in order to reach more school districts. There are currently 297 school districts in the state that have been prioritized for funding under the EPA’s $5 billion program and all applications are due August 19.