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Michigan Passes Historic Funding for School Bus Electrification

Published on June 29, 2023

Lansing, MI (June 29th, 2023) – Yesterday, the Michigan legislature passed the state’s annual budget in bipartisan fashion, including a historic $125 million in funding to help school districts across the state bring the benefits of zero-tailpipe-emissions electric school buses to their communities.

In a crucial step toward ensuring the transition to electric school buses is equitable, this funding will prioritize low income and rural school districts, school districts in areas most affected by air pollution, and other environmental justice factors.

Most of Michigan’s nearly 17,000 school buses run on diesel fuel, exposing children across the state to diesel exhaust pollution, which has proven links to serious physical health issues such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses as well as cognitive development impacts. Electric school buses have zero tailpipe emissions of harmful air pollutants, are responsible for the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of any school bus type – even when accounting for emissions from the generation of electric power – and can save school districts thousands of dollars per year on fuel and maintenance.

Building on the Governor’s Executive Budget recommendation, this funding will complement the rebate awards received by 25 Michigan school districts through the first round of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program, a program which, while offering unprecedented federal funding for electric school buses, represents only a small fraction of the funding needed to transition all school buses away from diesel fuel to electric. In fact, an additional 53 Michigan school districts requested electric school buses in the first round of Clean School Bus Program funding but were waitlisted.

This victory is due in part to the tireless work of organizations in the state such as the Electrification Coalition, Michigan Environmental Council, Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, MI Air MI Health, Clean Fuels Michigan, NAACP Grand Rapids, Action for the Climate Emergency, Ecology Center, Environmental Law & Policy Center and others.

Said Sue Gander, Director of WRI’s Electric School Bus Initiative:

“This year’s budget marks a turning point for the 800,000 students in Michigan who depend on the yellow bus to get to school. With this investment, school districts throughout the state can leave toxic diesel pollution in the rear-view mirror and join hundreds of other districts across the country in bringing the benefits of electric school buses to their communities. The air quality and health benefits of electric buses are especially critical for underserved communities, including those near bus depots, who too often bear the burden of transportation pollution. We applaud Governor Whitmer for leading the way in this effort to deliver a healthy ride to school for Michigan’s kids, while generating economic opportunity and protecting our climate. We urge the state, and look forward to working with them, to implement these funds in a manner that maximizes the air quality, health and climate benefits of the program and the opportunities for electrification.”

Said Kindra Weid, RN, air quality advocate, and coalition coordinator of It’s Electric!, Michigan’s electric school bus coalition:

“We are very pleased to hear of the $125 million dedicated to clean school buses for Michigan’s school children.  When air quality, climate and public health are at the front of our minds, protecting our children from dirty tailpipe emissions on their way to school just makes sense.  School districts across Michigan have already displayed success and demand for electric school buses, and this funding will help to support further rollouts- especially among our communities hit first and worst by air pollution.  This action from Michigan’s legislature shows they are putting children’s health, air quality, climate and equity front and center.” 

Said Ross Gavin, Urban Land Use & Infrastructure Policy Director at Michigan Environmental Council:

"We are glad to see the legislature and Governor include significant investments for electric school buses. This critical funding will help school districts phase out aging diesel school buses that emit dangerous exhaust pollution and put our kids at risk for health complications, while also reducing environmental impact as we work to tackle climate change. While it is unfortunate that alternative fuel buses also qualify for this funding, we look forward to working with the department to ensure the money is used for truly zero emissions, electric vehicles—which are safest for our kids."

Said Susan Mudd, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center:

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center applauds the Michigan state legislature for passing its budget that includes a $125 million Michigan Clean School Bus Program. We were proud to work with other Michigan-based groups to advocate for funding safe, clean buses that will reduce school children’s exposure to diesel emissions that are harmful to their developing lungs. Swapping out loud, dirty diesels for quieter zero-emission electric buses will also improve air quality for entire communities where these buses travel. This program represents the biggest commitment to electric school buses of any Midwest state and continues Michigan’s leadership demonstrated earlier by its successful rollout of Volkswagen funds for ESBs.”

Said Katrina Morris, Executive Director of Michigan Association of Pupil Transportation:

“Investing in a transition to cleaner school buses shows us where Michigan’s priorities lie: in the health and safety of school children.  Electric school buses are already arriving at school districts across Michigan, and not only are these buses safe, clean and quiet, but they are also performing well in cold weather and they are saving districts money on fuel and maintenance.  MAPT applauds this budget investment in a clean ride for kids and we look forward to helping roll out these cleaner buses across the state.”