The Michigan state legislature on June 28 passed a K-12 education budget that contains $125 million in funding for school districts to transition their bus fleets to cleaner options.
“With the passage of the K-12 state budget, Michigan lawmakers have sent a clear message that they are invested in our state’s educational future,” said Aaron Viles, director of campaigns for the Electrification Coalition. “We’re grateful for their leadership in creating a $125 million program to support the transition from dirty diesel to clean electric school buses. This is a big win for the state: Michigan’s kids will get a clean ride to school and school districts will free up fuel costs to invest in teachers, programs, and materials for better educational outcomes.”
Expected Benefits of the Michigan State Budget
The investment is expected to help replace hundreds of diesel-powered school buses in the 17,000 vehicle Michigan fleet.
The 2024 budget, also referred to as the Make It in Michigan Budget, was hailed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as a means to “build a brighter future for our state.”
“It lowers costs on healthcare, preschool, meals for kids, higher education, housing, and workforce training,” Whitmer said. “It will help us keep fixing the damn bridges, replacing lead pipes, and protecting public safety.”
Whitmer has set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and reducing emissions by 50% by 2030. Furthermore, she expects all new school bus purchases to be electric by 2030.
Electric School Bus Spending Concerns
But the spending – notably on electric buses – has its detractors in people like Pauline Wendzel, a Republican state representative. She called it a “spending spree,” according to Fox17.
“Despite foggy forecasts at the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference (CREC), Democrats decided to spend $80 billion in this budget on ridiculous things like electric school buses, 1,000 new full-time bureaucrats to harass small businesses and farmers, swimming pools, a poet laureate, and the creation of new, long-term government programs that will cost Michigan families more in the long run,” Wendzel said.
The new electric school bus technology hasn’t been off to a perfect start in Michigan. In a May presentation to the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education, downtime and performance issues proved key points for Emile Lauzzana. Lauzzana is the environmental sustainability director for Ann Arbor.
During the presentation, Lauzzana noted how expensive electric buses are compared to their diesel counterparts and lamented the unexpectedly high cost for the electrical infrastructure to power the vehicles.
However, despite the issues raised, Lauzzana went on to say that AAPS remained “committed to continuing with the pilot program and to purchase additional electric buses as the technology matures.”