Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) today led Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in introducing the Renew America’s Schools Act, bipartisan legislation to support America’s schools in making critical infrastructure upgrades that improve energy efficiency and reduce costs.
“Our kids deserve the healthiest possible environments for learning,” said Senator Cortez Masto, “including good ventilation to reduce the risks of COVID-19 and green technology to bring down pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that put children at higher risk for asthma and other illnesses. Nevada’s innovative economy is developing cutting-edge energy solutions for the 21st century, and we should ensure that across the nation, students are benefiting from these technologies. I’ll continue to work in the Senate to protect our children’s health, spur our innovative economy, and combat the climate crisis.”
“Encouraging the adoption of energy efficiency measures is one of the easiest yet most effective mechanisms for reducing energy consumption and lessening pollution,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan bill I am introducing with Senator Cortez Masto builds on a law I co-authored last year to streamline federal programs to help schools save on energy costs. As we continue to make modifications to improve the health and safety of classrooms during the pandemic, this legislation to increase the energy efficiency of school buildings will complement those efforts to provide the best learning environment possible for students and teachers.”
“If we truly want to invest in the future of this country, it’s time to invest in our schools,” said Senator Heinrich. “That’s why I’m proud to join Senator Cortez Masto to introduce legislation that assists K-12 school districts improve air ventilation systems and creates safer learning environments. Together, we can help school districts transition to clean, energy efficient technologies and renewable sources, helping decrease their energy costs.”
“Now is the time to make robust investments in our communities, so we can build a strong foundation for health and prosperity on the other side of this pandemic,” said Senator Merkley. “Upgrading our schools’ campuses with green technology will slash harmful pollution driving climate chaos, help schools stretch their dollars further, and create American jobs—all of which are core parts of that foundation. This bipartisan legislation will help us turn that vision into a reality, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to strengthen our communities during this difficult time.”
“The pandemic has demonstrated the clear need to update our schools for the 21st century, including boosting ventilation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said Senator Hirono. “The Renew America’s Schools Act invests in school campuses across the country by providing funds to cut energy bills for schools with energy efficiency solutions, installing renewable energy sources like rooftop solar to power schools, improving air quality in classrooms, and switching to zero-emissions buses to reduce air pollution around children. This bill provides key investments at a time when our schools need extra support to meet the needs of their communities.”
“When we invest in energy efficient schools, not only do we create a safer environment for our children to learn, but we free up dollars from expensive energy bills to fund things like updated textbooks, technology in the classroom and more teachers to lower class sizes. This is a win-win for the environment, our teachers, schools and most importantly, our children,” said Senator Stabenow.
Senator Cortez Masto has been a strong advocate for increasing investment in infrastructure, including green energy infrastructure. As part of her Innovation State Initiative, she has introduced a suite of legislation to promote electric vehicles, including EV school buses, and improve clean energy infrastructure. She is also the author of the bipartisan Moving FIRST Act to create greater federal funding investments in smart community transportation opportunities. Senator Cortez Masto has taken a bipartisan and holistic approach to supporting school infrastructure. In addition to the Renew America’s Schools Act, the Senator has introduced the Safe Routes to All Schools Act to expand federal transportation safety efforts for high schools, as well as the Connected Rural Schools Act to expand the Secure Rural Schools program to invest in broadband access and devices.
In schools throughout the country, buildings often lack proper heating, air-conditioning, and ventilation systems—with ventilation being critical during the coronavirus pandemic. Energy costs for K-12 schools total approximately $8 billion annually nationwide, but we could save up to $2 billion of those dollars by improving energy efficiency.
The Renew America’s Schools Act creates a federal grant program through the Department of Energy that would provide $100 million yearly for five years to provide funding to K-12 schools to make eligible energy efficiency improvements. Those eligible improvements include the following:
- Facility improvements for air quality, daylighting, ventilation, and lighting upgrades;
- Installation of renewable energy technologies to power school systems;
- Purchase of zero-emissions vehicles and infrastructure.
Full text of the bill is available here.
The Renew America’s Schools Act has the support of the National Education Association, Moms Clean Air Force, and the U.S. Green Building Council.