Congressman Jamaal Bowman unveils Green New Deal for Public Schools Act

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), a lifelong educator and former middle school principal, on Thursday unveiled the Green New Deal for Public Schools Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday alongside 32 cosponsors.

The ambitious new legislation — which aims to invest $1.43 trillion over 10 years in public schools and infrastructure to combat climate change — would make a transformative and unprecedented investment in public school infrastructure by upgrading every public school building in the country, addressing historical harms and inequities by focusing support on high-need schools, and hiring and training hundreds of thousands of additional educators and support staff.

If enacted, the legislation would fund 1.3 million jobs per year and eliminate 78 million metric tons of CO2 annually, the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road.

“It’s time for a revolution in public education,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman. “As we deal with a devastating climate crisis caused by decades of unchecked corporate greed, we need to center our children and their future. The Green New Deal for Public Schools represents the level of school infrastructure investment that is urgent and necessary to heal the harm from decades of disinvestment, redlining and cycles of poverty and trauma, particularly for Black and brown children.”

“The New Deal of the 1930s attacked the Great Depression on multiple fronts — relief for the unemployed and working poor, recovery of the economy, and reform of the financial system,” said progressive New Jersey Democrat Lisa McCormick, a strong supporter of Bowman’s proposal. “Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal calls for an end to global warming, with an economy built around more green jobs and clean energy programs. Representative Jamaal Bowman is taking the the next logical step in addressing the critical needs that exist in our schools while curing the climate crisis at the same time.”

“What this comes down to is whether we’re willing to provide our kids with the resources they need to realize their brilliance and have a livable planet,” said Bowman. “Do we want to continue building a world based on militarization, incarceration, poverty, and destruction of resources? Or will we take advantage of this moment, put our kids and educators first, and treat the climate crisis as the emergency it is? This legislation is what we need to put us on the right side of history.”

“In short, the Green New Deal for Public Schools will invest $1.43 trillion over ten years in America’s K-12 education system to heal and strengthen our schools for the 21st century,” said McCormick. “The bill places our young people at the center of our national response to the crises of climate change, systemic racism, and economic inequality.”

McCormick said that the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that the country’s public schools require $380 billion just to meet standards of good repair and a report released by the climate + community project at the University of Pennsylvania, predicted that Bowman’s proposal could fund 1.3 million jobs per year and eliminate 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually coming from America’s 105,000 K–12 schools, which now use eight percent of all the energy used by US buildings.

“Decarbonizing the country’s K–12 schools would entirely eliminate that carbon pollution, the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road,” said McCormick.

The Green New Deal for Public Schools proposes $1.43 trillion in new funding over 10 years, including the following distribution of resources:

  • $446 billion in Climate Capital Facilities Grants and $40 billion for a Climate Change Resiliency Program
    • Climate Capital Facilities Grants will fully fund healthy green retrofits for the highest-need third of schools, as measured by the CDC Social Vulnerability Index, and offer a mix of grant funding and no- or low-interest loans for the middle and top thirds. Grants will cover two-thirds and one-third of retrofit costs for these schools, respectively. 
  • $250 billion in Resource Block Grants
    • Resource Block Grants will fund staffing increases, expanded social service programming, and curriculum development at high-need schools. The program will allow Local Educational Agencies across the country to hire and train hundreds of thousands of additional educators and support staff, including paraprofessionals, school psychologists and counselors, and learning specialists. The funds may also be used to design locally-rooted curricula; adopt trauma-informed, culturally responsive, and restorative justice practices, to move towards a “whole child” approach to public education; and partner with community organizations to offer a range of services to schools and surrounding neighborhoods, such as after-school programs. 
  • $100 million for an Educational Equity Planning Grants Pilot Program
    • Educational Equity Planning Grants will encourage neighboring Local Education Agencies to form regional consortia, which will receive funding to conduct extensive community outreach, identify the historical and current sources of educational disparities within the region, and create and implement a Regional Education Equity Plan to address those disparities. This pilot program is modeled on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants, which are designed to encourage equitable, locally-driven economic development. 
  • $695 billion over 10 years for Title I and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) increases
    • This bill proposes quadrupling Title I funding to reach $66 billion annually to support schools and districts with students living in poverty, as well as increasing funding for IDEA Part B to reach $33 billion annually to support students with disabilities.

“Our country’s public schools should be safe, welcoming and sustainable for every child, regardless of geography or demography,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “As we navigate the ever-growing climate crisis and school buildings that are ill-equipped to deal with it, we find ourselves with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to meet the moment, and ensure all our students can learn in schools where they can drink clean water, breathe clean air and be free from mold and broken windows. This bill makes the bold investments in America’s K-12 education system we need, from retrofitting school buildings, to investing in school staff and mental health professionals, all while addressing historic inequities so we can build a just future where every kid can access basic opportunities to thrive.”

“The Green New Deal for K-12 Schools is a reflection of multiple movements for educational, environmental, and economic justice,” said Akira Drake Rodriguez, lead author of the climate + community project report and Assistant Professor of City & Regional Planning, Weitzman School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. “Climate + community project was inspired to produce this research because of the activism in cities like Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, and Washington DC, and we are grateful to have received feedback from K-12 educators across the nation who have experienced and provided so much in this last academic year. As many re-enter school facilities in the coming weeks, we remain committed to the core principles in this report and legislation: locally-grounded solutions to environmental, educational, and economic vulnerability supported by robust and transformative federal funding.”

“To ensure a safe and exciting future for our kids and workers, let’s invest in upgrading every public school in the country to the highest standards of health and comfort, while eliminating carbon pollution,” said Daniel Aldana Cohen, co-director of the Climate + Community Project, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley. “This would drastically improve learning and teaching conditions, especially in the country’s most vulnerable schools. It would launch new careers for hundreds of thousands of workers. And it would bring green community infrastructure to every neighborhood in the country, especially Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and working class communities. Our research shows that a $1.4 trillion investment over 10 years would create over one million jobs annually, while eliminating 78 million tons of metric carbon dioxide emissions per year—the equivalent of removing 17 million cars off the roads.”

“The pandemic didn’t just start a crisis, but amplified the many crises we face – one being the importance of supporting our public schools. So many young people right now are suffering from underinvested schools, rotting infrastructure, and even a lack of AC units in classrooms. That’s unacceptable,” said Varshini Prakash, Executive Director of Sunrise Movement. “Rep. Bowman’s Green New Deal for Public Schools Act is just the forward thinking and long overdue legislation that would not only protect the health and wellbeing of young people, but transform our school systems, equip future generations to stop climate change and move us one step closer to our vision of a Green New Deal.”

“This is the right investment for our students, our school communities, and our planet. Our students see the effects of climate change and ask why the adults in their lives aren’t getting this done. Now is the time,” said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

“Rep. Bowman’s Green New Deal for Public Schools combines human and physical infrastructure,” said Working Families Party National Director Maurice Mitchell. “As an educator in under-resourced schools, he knows how we can fight the climate crisis, create jobs, and give every student in the country the school buildings they deserve. This is a solution at the scale of the crises we face. WFP is proud to stand with Rep. Bowman in championing this bill.”

“The success of our public schools is the foundation for the success of our future generations, and this legislation helps ensure that all students receive the robust education they deserve, while making significant investments in the sustainable economy,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “We’re proud to join with Congressman Jamaal Bowman and advocates in support of this important legislation that will serve our students and serve to create thousands of jobs with good labor standards that will pave the way to the middle-class for countless hardworking Americans.”

“As a nation, we must prioritize long term investment for our students and address educational and environmental injustice, starting with the schools in Black and Brown communities that have been underserved for decades,” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director, Alliance for Quality Education. “That will mean funding for safe and updated school facilities, promoting equity across school districts and states, protecting the rights of students with disabilities, ensuring that small class sizes are a central pillar of our education system and more. We can and must ensure that our public schools are healthy, safe and supportive environments for all students.”

Original co-sponsors of the legislation are Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA), Cori Bush (D-MO), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-IL), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Andy Levin (D-MI), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Thomas R. Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Mark Takano (D-CA), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Peter Welch (D-VT), Nikema Williams (D-GA), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

Organizations endorsing the Green New Deal for Public Schools include American Federation of Teachers, Sunrise Movement, EduColor, Alliance for Quality Education, Justice Democrats, Climate Justice Alliance, Green New Deal Network, People’s Action, Center for Popular Democracy, Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, Democratic Socialists of America, Working Families Party, Indivisible, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, Jobs with Justice, NY Renews, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, Green Latinos, Future Coalition, March for Our Lives, Friends of the Earth US, Sierra Club, Greenpeace USA, Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), Progressive Democrats of America, and 350.org.

Click here to read the text of the bill.

Click here to read a summary of the bill.

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