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Equity questions remain as deadline closes for clean school bus funding | Illinois


(The Center Square) – Time will tell whether new criteria for the federal Clean School Bus Program means funds for electric buses are within the reach of low-income school districts.

The latest round of applications for a slice of $400 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s program to fund all-electric buses closed Aug. 22. New criteria for competitive grant applications gave more points to disadvantaged districts. 

Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, told The Center Square it is likely to be months before school districts learn of their status.

“Time will tell. We’ll see how the grants turn out. We won’t know that for months,” Mudd said.

While giving cities certain priorities, the new application also increased in difficulty, which is why only time can demonstrate whether these changes met their mark, Mudd said.

The purchase price of electric buses can be at least three times that of diesel buses, putting them out of reach of many school districts, especially disadvantaged ones. But Mudd stressed the importance of clean air for all students.

“Something that we think is really important is to make it equitable,” she said. “The whole idea of these buses is to help children be healthier.” 

Not only do city students suffer asthma and other ailments from pollution-intensive diesel buses, Mudd said they already have a strike against them from the generally poor air quality near their homes.

Additionally, Mudd noted that electric buses have been known to ease the driver shortage because they make for less pollution and less noise.

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Caleb Alexander

Caleb Alexander

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