As kids go back to school, California budget promises $1.5 billion for electric buses

Media Contacts
Sander Kushen

Public Health Advocate, CALPIRG Education Fund

Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, PIRG

SACRAMENTO – As a new school year starts, millions of children are lining up at bus stops across the state. Most of them will climb aboard diesel buses that pollute the air, expose them to toxic fumes and worsen climate change.

But California school districts will now have an unprecedented opportunity to provide our kids with a cleaner, healthier ride to school with electric school buses: The state just finalized next year’s budget, which includes a record investment of $1.5 billion to support school transportation programs. This could fund as many as 5000 electric school buses, a significant increase from last year’s budget, which included money for 1000 new electric school buses.

“Getting to school shouldn’t include a daily dose of toxic pollution or make climate change worse,” said Sander Kushen, CALPIRG Public Health Advocate. “Electric buses are here and they’re ready to give our kids a safer ride to school. States and the federal government are making it easier than ever for schools to make the switch and clean up diesel pollution.”

California is already a leader in the transition to electric school buses, with some districts like LAUSD committed to a 100% electric fleet, and Twin Rivers Unified boasting the largest fleet of electric school buses in the country. This added funding sets the stage for California to solidify it’s role as a national leader in electric school bus adoption.

The cost of making the switch to the new technology remains one of the major obstacles for school districts. But policymakers at both the federal and state levels have recently passed laws that will help. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden last November, created the Clean School Bus Program, with $5 billion of funding over the next five years. The first round of grant applications recently closed and in the coming months $500 million of new grants for electric school buses will be announced. The recently signed Inflation Reduction Act included an additional $1 billion for heavy duty fleet electrification, including school buses. 

School board members are applauding this funding increase. Board Member Ortiz, who represents LAUSD’s 7th District, says that electric bus funding will “ensure our scholars have a safe, clean and worry-free ride to and from school.” She continued, “This is a necessary and critical step we needed to take in order to protect our scholars, our communities and our environment. I hope this is the first of many more bold investments to come.”

“With the new federal funding in place, we’re going to see a lot more movement on electric school buses in the states,” said Kushen. “Working together, we’re going to turn all those big yellow buses green.”

Ricky Mackie | TPIN
CALPIRG advocates and volunteers are joined by state Assemblymembers Eloise Reyes and Phil Ting for an event in front of an electric school bus.