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Heat-Related School Closings Show MI Legislature Must Act Now to Reduce Climate Change, Groups Say 

Published on June 7, 2023

Proposals in budget help promote clean energy, reduce pollution, protect infrastructure critical to health, safety

LANSING, Michigan – Responding to heat-related school closings in Michigan’s two largest cities, statewide groups working to boost clean energy and reduce the harmful effects of climate change today called on the Michigan Legislature to pass critical climate proposals. 

Last week, Grand Rapids Public Schools and Detroit Public Schools closed schools because of the heatwave that sent temperatures into the high 80s and even the 90s. Serving a combined 61,000-plus students, the districts cited a lack of air conditioning and the safety of students, teachers and staff for the closings.   

“Across Grand Rapids, tens of thousands of children have been forced to stay home, including my partner's daughter,” said Sergio Cira-Reyes of the Urban Core Collective in Grand Rapids.

“When schools close and children are forced to stay home, the ones who are disproportionately affected are low-income families, families of color and single-parent homes, so climate change is now directly connected to educational as well as social and economic inequity.” Sergio Cira-Reyes, Urban Core Collective

“Our policymakers have a responsibility to take into account the cost of not fixing schools and other critical infrastructure in the face of worsening heat waves and how continued inaction harms families and children.” 

The groups called for the passage of proposals to boost clean energy, promote clean transportation and reduce pollution. They include legislation to create a 100% carbon-free electricity standard by 2035 and expand policies that conserve energy because such energy savings will mean less pollution in our air and water and more savings for consumers. Other legislation includes proposals to encourage greater investments in electric vehicle technology, manufacturing and charging infrastructure. The groups also called for the passage of proposals to empower and require the Michigan Public Service Commission to regulate and hold big utilities accountable for equity, health, affordability and climate impacts. 

“The school closures in Michigan are showing us how underprepared we are for extreme heat,” said Dr. Rachel Licker, principal climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “In a warming world, Michigan is expected to see more days with extreme heat, especially if we do not take action to reduce heat-trapping emissions. It is thus critical that our elected leaders invest in programs and policies that can help Michiganders better adapt to extreme heat and other climate impacts so that we don't have to choose between our kids having the chance to learn or staying safe.” 

Ecology Center Policy Director Alexis Blizman said: “Extreme weather events show us once again that no area of our lives is immune from the climate crisis. We have seen 100-year floods happening on a regular basis and, now, unseasonable extreme heat is forcing schools to close to protect the health and safety of our children. Elected leaders have an opportunity to invest in programs and policies that can help Michiganders better adapt to extreme weather as we see more and more these days.”