If a group of environmentally conscious middle school students in Vermont has its way, it may soon be illegal for school buses in the Green Mountain State to idle on school property.
The group of 7th graders from the 468-student Browns River Middle School in Jericho, near Burlington, wrote 150 letters to the state House of Representatives in support of such a ban, which has been introduced before but never passed.
They then traveled to the Statehouse in Montpelier to watch the debate and went online to track the status of the bill, which now has passed both chambers of the legislature in different forms.
Rep. Carol Hosford, a Democrat and a former school principal, spoke in favor of the bill. She has pushed for legislation on school bus idling for several years. So far, she has been unsuccessful.
Banning school bus idling would protect students’ health as well as the environment, Ms. Hosford said. Breathing diesel exhaust is harmful for children, especially for those with asthma, she said. And children are particularly prone to breathing in those toxins because they are at eye-level with the exhaust pipes of school buses.
“They get hit full-blast,” Ms. Hosford explained.
Cutting down on bus idling also would save districts money, supporters say. Each school bus burns about a gallon of gas for every hour spent idling.
But critics of the bill, such as Rep. David A. Sutherland, a Republican, say decisions on bus idling should be made by school districts, not by the state. Currently, the state government does not set school transportation regulations.
“Vermont has a very long and proud tradition of local control,” said Mr. Sutherland. “[This decision] should be made in the school board room, not in the Statehouse of Vermont.”
The bill passed the House on April 20 on a 96-46 vote. The Senate approved a similar bill on a 25-4 vote that would require all districts to adopt a policy about idling school buses by Jan. 1, but does not stipulate a ban.
The two versions would have to be reconciled before the legislature adjourns later this month.
“The House passed a much better version,” said Sen. Claire Ayer, a Democrat and the primary sponsor of the bill. “I hope it is approved by the committee.”
A version of this article appeared in the May 02, 2007 edition of Education Week