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Millions of U.S. students rely on the nation’s nearly 500,000-strong school bus fleet to travel to and from school every day.

For decades, most of these buses have been powered by diesel engines. Despite the harmful pollution these buses emit, there haven’t been viable alternatives that are significantly better for the environment.

But with the arrival of electric school bus technology and ever-improving batteries, the nation’s student transportation fleet is on the cusp of a radical and badly needed transition to zero-emissions vehicles. 

JMA’s report is a detailed look at many of the most pressing questions for advocates, school district officials, and policymakers who want to understand the transition to electric school buses fully. The research relies on a wide variety of sources and is grounded by insights shared by more than two dozen representatives from school districts, private fleet operators, utilities, unions, and other stakeholders.

This report provides numerous recommendations, including:

  • Prioritizing funding for disadvantaged communities. Funding programs should create explicit, well-defined, and accountable preferences for communities who have historically been blocked from accessing new technologies. 
  • Promoting equitable employment practices and good jobs for school bus drivers, attendants, and operators through workforce impact assessments, in which fleet operators evaluate the expected impact of ESBs on school bus drivers, attendants, and technicians, and provide their plan to ensure that workers retain their positions, receive the training they need, and maintain wage and benefit levels. 
  • Incorporating the U.S. Jobs Plan in funding streams and solicitations. ESB funding programs should promote the development of a high-road ESB supply chain. One of the best ways to do this is through the U.S. Jobs Plan, where manufacturers make enforceable commitments on the creation of good jobs and the use of equitable hiring and training practices. 
  • Ensuring safe and proper installation of charging infrastructure and promoting recycling and responsible mining 

Ian Elder, senior national researcher at Jobs to Move America and the report’s author said, “Now is the time to transition to electric school buses: to protect kids’ health, to provide clean air in communities overburdened by pollution, and to create the jobs of the future. But as this research shows, these outcomes are not a given. We need to invest in this technology wisely and fairly in a way that centers kids, communities, and workers.”

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