Educators, environmentalists push for more state funding for electric school buses


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A Texas school district is blazing a trail as the first in the state to add zero-emission buses to its fleet.

Now education and environmental leaders are encouraging state leaders to find ways for other districts to follow suit.

The Everman Independent School District, which serves more than 6,000 students in a Fort Worth suburb, now boasts three fully-electric buses.

“We have 90% cost savings on fuel, 90% cost savings on maintenance, and I’m not having to pay up mechanic to work on the oil changes in the air filter changes and all the inner coolers and all the stuff that has been added to diesel motors,” the district’s transportation director Jason Gillis said.

Some districts fear the initial price tag, which, a new report from Environment Texas and public interest advocate TexPIRG revealed, can wind up three times higher than diesel buses.

“Electric school buses have clear health and environmental benefits and in fact, over the lifetime of the bus, can save the school district money, through reduced fuel and maintenance costs, there is a higher upfront cost for electric buses,” Environment Texas Executive Director Luke Metzger said.

The groups penned a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott this week asking him to address the financing options with the state’s budget writers to “help school districts with that hurdle of purchasing the buses,” Metzger said. Their recommendations included preserving the approximately $22 million in the Clean School Bus program and finding opportunities for districts to earn grants.

“Our conservative estimate of how much school districts can save per bus is $130,000 per bus over the lifetime of those buses,” TexPIRG director Bay Scoggin said.

An Abbott spokesperson did not return an email requesting comment for this story. But, the governor said during his State of the State address on Monday he expected lawmakers to continue funding education “as we promised.” It’s unclear whether any of the suggestions made in the letter are included in that promise.

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