Senator McGuire secures $5 million for rural district school bus replacement

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sacramento, CA –  Earlier this year, Senator Mike McGuire introduced The Rural Safety and Clean Air Act (SB 523), which would invest $5 million per year  to replace aging school buses in rural school districts. Working collaboratively with the California Air Resources Board, the $5 million was approved today and will be allocated to rural school districts to replace old and polluting school buses through a grant process starting in mid-2016.

“Rural school districts have among the oldest and dirtiest burning school buses in the state and they are challenged to afford replacements which run between $150,000 to $200,000. Today’s action will put fuel efficient, cleaner burning school buses on the road which will reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, improve air quality and health outcomes for California school kids,” Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than half of today’s school buses have been in service for over a decade. These older buses emit nearly twice as much pollution per mile as a semi-truck. In addition, buses manufactured before 1990 can send out as much as six times more particulate matter and nitrogen oxides compared to buses that have been recently manufactured. Consequently, health risks for students, especially younger children increase significantly because their respiratory systems are still developing.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office reports that rural school districts transport a significant share of their total student population compared to larger districts. This means, per capita, rural students are exposed to higher forms of pollutants. The California Air Resources Board has stated that bus-related exposure to exhaust fumes are due to time spent commuting on the school bus. Exhaust fumes are known to be one of the leading causes of asthma.

While small and rural school districts want to advance environmental preferred transportation alternatives, these districts are challenged to afford bus replacements because they have less discretionary funding.  In many cases, grant opportunities are focused on suburban and urban school districts. Moreover, rural transportation costs per student are typically higher due to the greater distance rural students are required to travel to and from school.

Senator McGuire authored SB 523 – The Rural Safety and Clean Air Act – and through the California Air Resources Board action, the $5 million was approved this afternoon. In his effort to secure these funds, Senator McGuire authored a letter to the Air Resources Board Membership – signed by 18 state legislators in support of the allocation and worked to build a bi-partisan coalition of support around the issue that includes the Small School Districts Association, California School Board Association, California Association of School Transportation Officials, Lakeport Unified School District, American Academy of Pediatrics California, Rural County Representatives of California and the California School Employees Association, among others.

“I’m grateful to Chairman Nichols and the entire Board for approving this funding plan. Today's action will benefit our state’s air quality and the health of thousands of kids all throughout California.” Senator McGuire said.

Co-authors include: Assemblymembers Jim Wood and Bill Dodd.

Attached: Letter of support from members of the State Senate and Assembly.