President Biden on Tuesday signed into law the most significant federal legislation to date tackling climate change, including a handful of provisions that will be of interest to school leaders and educators.
The law authorizes $430 billion in federal spending on incentives for companies and consumers to reduce their carbon footprint and invest in sustainable alternatives. Schools are not a major focus of the law, but the final version includes $50 million for schools to improve indoor air quality, and $400 million for states, school transportation associations, and other entities to spend on electric vehicles, like school buses.
The spending package also steps up IRS enforcement and increases taxes on corporations—steps that aim to curb rampant inflation, which has put a severe squeeze on schools and districts in areas such as transportation, supplies, cafeteria costs, and other expenses.
Other pieces might affect educators and schools indirectly. Educators, and all consumers, will be able to take advantage of federal tax credits for people who buy electric vehicles, solar panels, or heat pumps to replace furnaces.
Meanwhile, David Backer, a professor of education policy and leadership at West Chester University, believes the establishment of a $27 billion national “green bank” could spur loans for schools to upgrade their facilities with green infrastructure in mind.
But many of the proposals education advocates have been pushing in recent years did not make it into the final law. The spending package does not include $100 billion in grants and bonds for improving school facilities, and it does not require all states to offer universal free pre-K and two-year college admission. All of these proposals were part of Biden’s original pitch for federal infrastructure spending in early 2021.
Separately, the Green New Deal for Schools, a proposal from progressive congressional Democrats to spend $1.4 trillion on helping schools deal with the effects of climate change and reduce their contributions to it, also hasn’t gained much traction.
That said, there’s plenty school leaders can do now to tackle the climate crisis. Here are a few ideas.