The federal government announced Monday, April 4th the launch of a new federal initiative called the ‘Biden-Harris Action Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure.’ The plan is aimed at upgrading public school systems with modern, healthy and energy-efficient facilities, contributing to guidance previously outlined in the recent Clean Air in Buildings Challenge. The plan will leverage investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and American rescue plan to advance funding for energy efficiency improvements, retrofits, resilient design and more.
In a statement by the administration, special emphasis is placed on tackling the issue of poor indoor air quality within these facilities, citing aging and outdated HVAC, temperature and ventilation systems as posing considerable risk. Additionally idling school buses in and around campuses have also been identified as contributors to worsening air quality in schools. The White House believes that by targeting these factors, school districts will be able to improve educational outcomes, especially those in lower income areas, where the burden of pollution is especially high.
The plan is also expected to provide considerable cost savings to schools and their communities through energy efficiency measures. White House estimates on the savings provided by simple, off-the-shelf improvements will reduce energy expenditure by 10% – 30%, with even greater savings expected from implementing more comprehensive measures. The government also notes these initiatives will help open more union job opportunities for electricians, carpenters and other building professionals.
The Action Plan for Better School Infrastructure
As part of the action plan, the Biden-Harris administration has listed they will:
- Invest more in energy-efficient school buildings through a $500 million grant program for educational buildings.
- Improve classroom air quality by providing funding through the American Rescue Plan, with the Department of Treasury to soon release guidance on how districts can use state and local fiscal recovery funds to facilitate improvements.
- Help schools access resources and best practices through a new funding and technical assistance toolkit.
- Expand clean and safe transportation through a $5 billion Clean School Bus Program, opening avenues for the acquisition of electric school buses later in the spring.
- Support Rural, Tribal and Puerto Rican schools through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) rural development loan and grant program.
The administration is also announcing its first round of honorees in the Efficient and Healthy Schools campaign. The campaign provides technical assistance to school districts targeting high-impact improvements with a goal of reach 5,000 schools by the end of 2022.