Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday announced a $500 million grant program to help public schools improve HVAC systems and other energy needs. File Pool Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI | License Photo
April 4 (UPI) -- The Biden administration on Monday announced a $500 million grant program aimed at improving energy efficiency in schools.
Vice President Kamala Harris detailed the program, which makes funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law available to all public schools to improve their heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC systems, and other energy upgrades.
In remarks at Neville Thomas Elementary School in Washington, D.C., Harris said the funds will be directed primarily to underserved communities and can be used to install energy-efficient windows, solar panels and better insulation.
"For decades, our country has chronically underinvested in our public schools and far too many of our school districts have gone without important repairs and upgrades to buildings and to classrooms," Harris said.
She also noted that classrooms in schools with outdated HVAC systems often are too cold in the winter and too hot in the spring and approaching summer, leading to poor air quality that can trigger allergies and asthma attacks.
The White House noted that public K-12 districts spend about $8 billion a year on energy bills, representing their second-largest expense after teacher salaries.
"These grants will help schools reduce their energy costs significantly, savings that can be reinvested in the school to hire more teachers, to make long needed repairs or to invest in new technology to support learning," Harris said.
"And at the same time these grants will create good-paying union jobs for electricians, carpenters, painters and more."
Also Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency said it would deploy new online guidance for $5 billion included in the bipartisan infrastructure law to help school districts invest in electric school buses.
"Every day millions of children ride on diesel school buses, breathing toxic fumes that can harm their health," Harris said.
The White House noted that studies have shown that diesel exhaust exposure is linked to an increase in school absences.
"Reducing pollution will provide better health and educational outcomes, particularly in low-income communities of color that face underinvestment and high pollution," the White House said.