Gov. Polis, Kids and Parents Celebrate Colorado Electric School Bus Grant Program with $24 Million for 13 School Districts

Media Contacts
Alexandra Simon

Former Public Health Advocate, CoPIRG Foundation

                         

For Immediate Release: 

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Media contact: 

 

Gov. Polis, Kids and Parents Celebrate Colorado Electric School Bus Grant Program with $24 Million for 13 School Districts

Buses will provide healthier rides for kids while improving air quality 

DENVER – As kids are finding their way back to school and meeting their new teachers, several school districts across Colorado received great news that will help them safely transport children to school while also helping to fix our air pollution problem. The state announced projects selected for the first-ever round of grant funding through the Colorado Electric School Bus Grant Program. Colorado has committed to supporting these 13 school districts by securing more than $24 million in combined state and federal funding to procure 67 new electric buses and aid in the transition from diesel school buses to clean electric school buses. This effort will more than double the total number of electric school buses in Colorado.

Governor Polis celebrated the announcement surrounded by enthusiastic students, parents, school districts and healthy air advocates. “The benefits of electric school buses will help us create the future our children deserve, with cleaner air and savings that schools can put back into the classroom. This is why we worked as a state to maximize federal funding here in Colorado, and invested state funding to help more schools get electric buses, and we are excited to celebrate this work today,” said Governor Jared Polis

“Because the air on diesel buses is significantly more polluted than ambient air, moms worry about the impact on their children that ride a school bus every day. Diesel pollution is not only dangerous to their health and their future but impacts their cognitive abilities,” said Sara Kuntzler, Colorado Program Manager for Mountain Mamas. “It defeats the point to send our kids to school on buses that impair their ability to learn, so moms are thrilled to see the transition to clean electric buses to protect our kids and the planet they will inherit.”

Diesel exhaust is not only a known carcinogen but can also significantly impair functional brain connectivity. It impacts the children and drivers on the bus as well as all the kids on the school grounds near idling buses and the neighborhoods that buses travel through. Because they are also emitters of greenhouse gas, they contribute to the climate crisis. According to CoPIRG, school buses in Colorado are the source of approximately 72,483 tons of greenhouse gasses annually.

Children from communities of color rely more heavily on buses for transportation to school and are thus exposed to higher levels of diesel emissions, making school bus pollution an equity issue. 

“Toxic diesel pollution is linked to higher rates of cancer, heart disease, respiratory disorders and premature death. Advocates emphasized the environmental justice benefits of electrifying school buses, especially if those buses can be prioritized in the communities most heavily impacted. At Greenlatinos we are excited that of the 13 projects several serve Disproportionately Impacted Communities such as Greeley-Evans School District #6, Sheridan School District #2, and Monte Vista School District! This will go far in improving air quality and reducing the health burden for Disproportionately Impacted Communities,” said Juan Roberto Madrid, Greenlatinos Colorado Clean Transportation and Energy Advocate.

Colorado continues to remain a leader in public funding for electric school buses, with a new report from the CoPIRG Foundation showing the state ranks fourth nationally in total state and federal funding. With the recent addition of 13 school districts under the first round of funding for the state program, a total of 27 school districts across the state now have at least one electric school bus funded, according to the report. 

“Colorado’s state grant program exemplifies how effective state policy can help school districts transition away from toxic, diesel buses to cleaner electric alternatives,” said CoPIRG public health advocate Alex Simon. “Our new report shows that 27 school districts across the state now have at least one electric bus funded, meaning thousands of children and drivers will soon begin to enjoy a healthier, quieter ride to school, while improving local air quality and saving districts money.”

Electric school buses not only improve our air quality but save school districts money on both fueling and maintenance costs. Denver Public School (DPS), the largest school district in the state, was selected to receive funds for 20 buses. “We are proud to be among the first school districts to put an electric bus on the road in Colorado. By choosing to purchase a bus that will reduce carbon emissions on the road to zero, we are providing a healthier environment for our current and future scholars in direct alignment with our climate action plan,” said Denver Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero. “I want to thank the DPS Board of Education for making sustainability a priority and our transportation team for embracing the new technology and putting students first.”  

“These innovative grant programs will help Coloradans across the state breathe easier for years to come, including our youngest and most vulnerable,” said Michael Ogletree, director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Air Pollution Control Division. “We’re investing in a cleaner, healthier future for all by supporting the transition to clean vehicles that provide cost-savings over the long-term, while reducing harmful air pollution.”

State funds can be combined with federal funds available to school districts from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The following community leaders also celebrated the awards:

“The American Lung Association is excited to see Colorado taking steps to be among the nation’s leaders in vehicle electrification. Making the switch to electric school buses is a public health imperative, as children’s developing brains and respiratory systems make them especially vulnerable to poor air quality.” Nick Torres, advocacy director for the American Lung Association in Colorado.

“Perhaps the most important factor in the electric bus transition is the impact it will have in neighborhoods historically impacted disproportionately by vehicle emissions.” Colorado State Representative Alex Valdez

“This type of programming continues to demonstrate Colorado’s willingness to make equitable investments towards a vibrant and sustainable future. Continued steps like these will make invaluable progress towards providing clean air to all while helping to establish Colorado as a leader in the clean energy future — that is certainly worth celebrating.” Joe Antus, Executive Director, Signal Tech Coalition

“If you know anything about school field trips, then you know the back of the bus is the best place to be. And it only gets better with electric buses.” Beckett Nelson-Gardner, DPS Students for Climate Action

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Mountain Mamas protect our air, water, climate and public lands for future generations. Learn more at https://www.mtnmamas.org/ 

CoPIRG Foundation (Colorado Public Interest Research Group) – through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being. https://pirg.org/colorado/foundation/ 

 

GreenLatinos is an active comunidad of Latino/a/x leaders, emboldened by the power and wisdom of our culture, united to demand equity and dismantle racism, resourced to win our environmental, conservation, and climate justice battles, and driven to secure our political, economic, cultural, and environmental liberation. www.greenlatinos.org 

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, which has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and is a Platinum-Level GuideStar Member, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org. To support the work of the American Lung Association, find a local event at Lung.org/events.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is a state agency that serves Coloradans by providing public health and environmental protection services to promote healthy people in healthy places. To learn more, visit: https://cdphe.colorado.gov/ 

 

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