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California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2022-23 budget proposal – dubbed the California Blueprint - includes an investment of $1.5 billion toward school transportation programs. That could fund as many as 5,000 electric school buses.

“With major new investments to tackle the greatest threats to our state’s future, the California Blueprint lights the path forward to continue the historic progress we’ve made on our short-term and long-term challenges, including responding to the evolving pandemic, fighting the climate crisis, taking on persistent inequality and homelessness, keeping our streets safe and more,” Newsom said in an official statement.

The budget summary indicates that California’s school bus fleets “are dominated by diesel combustion vehicles. These buses create pollution that harms the environment and are costly to operate. The cost of fuel and repairs necessary to maintain a diesel combustion system erode resources that could otherwise be used to support other aspects of school transportation programs.”

The $1.5 billion earmarked for school transportation would be available over three years. Grants of at least $500,000 would be available for school districts “with high concentrations of low-income students, youth in foster care, and English language learners, as well as small and rural local educational agencies,” the budget summary states.

The budget also proposes a workgroup to streamline the process of training and licensing new school bus drivers, including representatives from the Department of Motor Vehicles, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Education, and the State Board of Education.

Sander Kushen, CALPIRG’s state advocate, said in a news release: “Parents and children are still navigating the pandemic, and they shouldn’t have to worry about added health risks from their ride to school. Every time we put our kids on a diesel bus, we’re putting them at risk. Electric school bus technology is here and it’s ready to roll, but we need to make sure that funding programs are in place to help our schools make the switch.”

Newsom’s proposed investment, which still must win approval from the state legislature, comes on the heels of Pres. Joe Biden’s $2.5 billion spending plan for all-electric school buses in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

According to CALPIRG, 25,000 school buses drive more than 230 million miles every year in California.

“Despite the progress California has made toward electrifying fleets, the majority of school buses still run on diesel, a fossil fuel that increases global warming emissions and has been linked to several serious health risks, including increased rates of respiratory illness and cancer,” the news release stated.

It’s estimated that each electric school bus could save California school districts about $2,000 per year in fuel and $4,400 per year in maintenance expenses.

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