Rep Jamaal Bowman Gonna Green Up America's Schools
Now that the negotiations are really getting going on what will go in the big Democratic reconciliation bill, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, the first term congressman from New York who made his former career as a middle-school principal a key part of his campaign, would like to make sure that the infrastructure spending package includes money to upgrade America's school buildings to make them more climate friendly. Tomorrow, he'll be introducing a plan to upgrade schools to face climate change and to serve as hubs for social services as well.
Bowman's proposal aims at several targets of Joe Biden's infrastructure priorities, as the Washington Post outlines:
His "Green New Deal for Public Schools" calls for a $446 billion investment in the green retrofitting of public schools, along with major investments in the expansion of social services and a curriculum upgrade in school districts serving low-income communities. The money would be laid out over 10 years.
Grants distributed by a proposed Office of Sustainable Schools that would live within the Department of Education and work with the Department of Energy would foot the bill for schools to make energy efficient upgrades and electrifying facilities that would eliminate carbon emissions. The funding would also cover climate resilience efforts such as building out broadband infrastructure and EV charging stations, and garden and tree planting.
That all sounds good to us! (Fine, anything aimed at tackling the climate crisis sounds good to us, because there so much that's going to need fixing to get America off the fossil fuel teat.) Bowman's plan really is attractive, as one of those "whole of government" efforts that Joe Biden likes to talk about.
Bowman told the Post that so far, the White House has been "very receptive and very excited" about the proposal and its potential to help move toward Biden's goal of cutting US greenhouse emissions by 2030, and to be carbon-neutral by 2050. And since so many schools need upgrading in the communities that have been hit hardest by the fossil economy, the plan also fits nicely with Biden's goal of directing 40 percent of climate-related spending toward disadvantaged frontline communities.
Bowman made a pretty good pitch for the plan in an interview with the Post:
Schools are the best epicenter to be leaders in what climate infrastructure should look like, in terms of sustainable energy, in terms of renewable energy, and in terms of energy sharing. [...]
In terms of how we support the social, emotional, and economic needs for students and families within a particular community to prepare for the challenges of climate change — our schools are not doing any of that at this moment.
In addition to the physical infrastructure stuff, which is a lot in itself, Bowman's plan calls for funds to reduce student-to-staff ratios and to expand school services like psychologists and counselors, plus funding to help schools tailor their curricula to local communities. And while those may seem tangential to climate, they fit perfectly well in the "human infrastructure" investments that Biden called for in his American Families Plan. In addition, Bowman's plan would boost funding for the Title I program that funds schools in high-poverty communities, and $33 million for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which funds support systems for kids with physical, intellectual, and emotional disabilities. Just a quick note here: Since it was passed in 1975, IDEA has never been fully funded. Bowman's proposed spending would provide about a third of the $100 billion (over 10 years) that Biden campaigned on.
The Post story also discusses a potential sticking point for the entire reconciliation package, which we should have seen coming: Joe Manchin (D-Big Coal) is not happy about this talk of moving America entirely away from fossil fuels, because apparently in his head it is still 1985 and America has decades to put off ending greenhouse emissions.
"You cannot be moving toward eliminating fossil [fuels]," Manchin told reporters. "Hopefully we can come to an agreement that they understand fossil is going to play a part."
Maybe the Senate could include a Joe Manchin National Black Lung Treatment Center and call that fossil fuels' contribution?
Bowman, in turn, is becoming a very outspoken critic of Manchin, calling him the "new Mitch McConnell" over his frequent dog in the manger opposition to every. goddamned. thing. that Democrats want to pass. When it comes to climate, Bowman warned, Manchin should keep in mind that "History will remember this moment."
"You have parts of the country that are reaching 118 degrees, parts of the country have never been that hot, recent storms on the East Coast, massive flood and destruction of property — I mean, climate change is here, and it's real," said Bowman. "I encourage my colleagues to be on the right side of history. This is about their legacy, and all of our legacies: How do we respond to the climate crisis that's right in front of us? History will tell the story of who answered that question correctly."
Goddamn right. Maybe Rep. Bowman can figure out a way to have Joe Manchin serve an in-school suspension cleaning up mine waste sites.
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