by California State PTA Health and Community Concerns Commission
Recently, California State PTA joined the statewide Climate-Ready Schools Coalition. What is that, you ask? Well, it is a coalition formed of education, climate, health, youth, labor, civil rights, and business leaders. The mission is to ensure school buildings and grounds are sustainable and resilient to equitably support student health, safety, learning, and well-being in a time of rapidly increasing extreme weather.
In its January 10 statement regarding Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal, the Coalition said, “Many California schools today are, quite literally, underwater. The historic rainfall the state has experienced over the past few weeks demonstrates that increasingly frequent and intense climate hazards — such as flooding, extreme heat, and wildfire smoke — continue to threaten the health and safety of students in California’s K-12 schools. The harshest consequences of climate impacts fall most heavily on students of color, students from low-income families, and students in rural communities, reinforcing existing inequities and deepening learning loss.”
The letter also points to the need for action this year for several reasons:
- Thanks to financial incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act, the state can access federal dollars to supplement California’s $15 billion per year expenditure for school building improvements.
- Transforming public schools into “sites of climate mitigation and energy efficiency” is vital to California’s overall goals for carbon neutrality.
- Rising natural gas prices are diverting vital education dollars out of classrooms.
Putting a focus on school buildings, and investing accordingly, is of particular importance for high-need schools, according to the Coalition’s statement. It would “enable high-needs schools across California to ensure healthy indoor air quality with modern HVAC equipment, prevent disruptions with onsite solar power and battery storage, and reduce school-based emissions with renewably-powered electric building systems.”
The Coalition is urging state lawmakers to create a plan that will provide guidance for school districts, stating “if the State does nothing, local schools will continue to spend billions of dollars in ways that contradict California’s own climate goals.”
To that end, the Climate-Ready Schools Coalition is asking Governor Newsom and legislative leaders to include the following investments in a revised Budget Proposal:
- $10 million in a state-wide Master Plan for Sustainable and Climate-Resilient Schools to ensure ongoing school infrastructure spending is cost-effective and aligned with the state’s decarbonization targets;
- $10 million for technical assistance to help individual school districts leverage state and federal funding and incentives for decarbonization and resilience; and
- $100 million to convert 50 high-risk schools in disadvantaged communities to electric heat pump HVAC systems to safeguard indoor air quality and temperature.
California State PTA believes that climate change is an issue that affects all children in our state and all members. More information is available in the Community Concerns portion of our website. Tips for how your PTA can get involved and take action locally are available on our Leaders Website.
Do you have questions? Please feel free to reach out to the California State PTA Health and Community Concerns commission at CommunityConcerns@capta.org.