AESB Financiamiento y Autobuses Escolares eléctricos

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What do school buses, and transitioning to electric fleets, have to do with equity? Great question — glad you asked! 

Scientists agree that diesel school buses pollute the air we breathe. Diesel exhaust can cause or worsen asthma, lung and heart illnesses, and even cancer; breathing in its fumes is associated with more missed days of school and work (as well as lower test scores) and shorter lifespans. Children, whose lungs and brains are still developing, are especially vulnerable. Diesel, in short, is harmful and deadly to kids. 

But diesel pollution isn’t experienced equally by all children. School districts in low-income communities are more likely to have older and dirtier diesel buses in their fleet, and to keep them longer due to budget constraints. Children from low-income families, Black, Latine and Indigenous children, and disabled children are more likely than their peers to take the bus to school. This means kids of color and from low-income families, as well as those with a disability, breathe in more toxic diesel exhaust simply by riding in diesel school buses. 

On top of this, due to centuries of redlining and other forms of housing and economic discrimination, children of color and from low-income families live in neighborhoods with disproportionately dirty air, near major sources of pollution like highways, industrial plants, and warehouses. Black, Latine, and Indigenous children are more likely to suffer from asthma, more likely to be hospitalized due to asthma, and more likely to die in an asthma attack. Diesel school buses compound such inequalities and put these children at higher risk of death and illness. 

All children deserve to breathe clean air, no matter their race, ethnicity, family income or zip code. Electric school buses emit no tailpipe emissions, significantly reducing the contaminants children are exposed to. By placing electric school buses in the communities with the dirtiest air, we can greatly improve the health and wellbeing of the children most suffering from pollution. 

How can this be accomplished? The Alliance for Electric School Buses urges policymakers to target any electric school bus deployment, funding, and technical assistance to the children living with the worst air quality: students from low-income communities and communities of color. Study after study has found that race/ethnicity is the best predictor of pollution exposure, and that income is not a good proxy for race/ethnicity. We call on policymakers to use race and ethnicity as criteria for prioritization of electric school bus programs, as well as ozone and particulate matter pollution, income, asthma rates, and other evidence of health and economic inequities. 

Achieving equitable outcomes also requires intentionality, follow-through, and ongoing engagement and consultation of impacted communities. The Alliance for Electric School Buses encourages policymakers to engage impacted communities to set expected results from electric school bus projects and track outcomes regularly. Measuring progress towards these goals will not only allow the opportunity to course-correct as needed, but will also help ensure public dollars are achieving the most good for the children who desperately need cleaner air. 

Looking for data that backs this up? Here’s a compilation of academic studies and other data: 

Diesel pollution impacts our heart, lungs, and brain.

Diesel pollution is linked to poorer academic performance and missed days of school.

Low-income children, Black children, and children with disabilities are more likely to ride the bus to school, meaning they are more likely to be exposed to toxic diesel pollution.

Low-income children and especially Black and Latinx children are already more likely to live in neighborhoods with disproportionately dirtier air.

Black, Latine, and Indigenous children are more likely to suffer from, and even die from, asthma.

Race, not income, is the best predictor of exposure to pollution. Ignoring race in policymaking will worsen pollution for low-income, Black, and Latinx children. 

A 2021 study found that Black, Latine, Asian and other communities of color are disproportionately exposed to particulate matter pollution, and that exposure levels are pronounced for people of color even at all income levels. Exposure when defined by race varies more than when defined by income — people of color being 2.4 times more exposed to PM pollution than white people — making income a poor determinant of who is exposed to more pollution.

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