$10 million secured for Rural School Bus Replacement program

Air Resources Board takes final vote approving pilot project funding

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Sacramento, CA – The final vote has been cast by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that will open up $10 million in funding for rural and small school districts to replace their aging and dilapidated school buses.

Rural and small districts have among the oldest and dirtiest burning fleets of buses in California. Working with the California Air Resources Board, Senator McGuire and the Board advanced a budget proposal this year that would allocate $10 million and implement a grant process designed to meet the unique needs of small and rural school districts.

“We have spent the past year developing a grant process and funding allocation that will be successful for California’s rural and small schools – which have among the oldest and dirtiest burning school buses in the state,” Senator McGuire said. “This year’s budget agreement will now bring twice the original allocation – $10 million to our state’s small schools, putting fuel efficient, cleaner burning school buses on the road, which will improve health outcomes for school kids and reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”

The statewide grant administrator of this program will be based on the North Coast. This is to ensure the program will be run by someone who lives and works in a rural area, and is familiar with the unique and special set of circumstances small, rural schools face.

Now that the funding has been approved, the North Coast Air District will start administering the grants. The grant will award up to three electric school buses or one conventional fuel bus to individual applicants.

In addition, CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols is implementing a survey of all old school buses across the state so the board will have a better understanding of the statewide problem.

Senator McGuire has led the effort to advance this project and has worked collaboratively with the Air Resources Board to develop the program.

“Small and rural school districts have been left out of the school bus replacement funding allocations for too long and we are grateful to have worked with the Air Resources Board to make this program a reality,” Senator McGuire said. “We have fought hard to ensure rural students are not left behind, especially when it comes to their health, safety, and educational opportunities and we couldn’t be more excited to see this program moving forward.”

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 is 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 environmentally preferred transportation alternatives, these districts are challenged to afford bus replacements because they have less discretionary funding and limited access to other types of funding that urban school districts often use to replace aging bus fleets. Moreover, rural transportation costs per student are typically higher due to the greater distance rural students are required to travel to and from school.

The $10 million Rural School Bus Replacement Pilot Program was approved on Oct. 20 as part of CARB’s fiscal year 2016-2017 Funding Plan for Low Carbon Transportation and Fuels Investments and the Air Quality Improvement Program.