At a time when the American people are making historic investments in rebuilding our economy, investing in New York City schools is a perfect opportunity to Build Back Better. We can simultaneously take on climate change, make school facilities healthier for students and the school community, create good union jobs, and save millions in energy costs. We can have a real impact on carbon emissions, address long-standing problems in our school buildings—from antiquated heating and air conditioning systems to deteriorating rooftops to outdated electrical grids—and help put New Yorkers back to work.
The Carbon Free and Healthy Schools campaign is an initiative led by labor unions to urge federal and local lawmakers to retrofit schools for energy efficiencies, including solar power, to create a safe, healthy, cost-effective school environment while contributing to a greener New York City.
The coalition is urging the federal government, as part of its investments in infrastructure, to support this project in New York City, which calls for funding energy audits on all public schools in the city and providing low-cost, guaranteed financing for building retrofits and solar power. The coalition is also calling on local lawmakers to fully implement the funding already allocated for energy-efficiency retrofits and solar panels on schools, and to make timely and effective use of funding in the American Rescue Act that can support upgrades to HVAC systems in schools.
To learn more about this initiative, visit our microsite.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted what we already knew: For the sake of our students, teachers, and staff members, New York City’s public school facilities are in serious need of attention,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “We are proud to support this initiative, which will make our schools healthier and safer while also helping reduce the impact of climate change.”
“We must take bold action on climate,” said Henry Garrido, Executive Director of District Council 37. “We must lead the way out of this economic crisis. Carbon Free and Healthy Schools is a way to do both, while also making our schools healthier and safer, and saving millions of dollars for schools.”
“It’s no secret that many public-school buildings in New York City are in serious need of repairs and upgrades,” said Kyle Bragg, President of 32BJ SEIU. “That is especially true in too many Black and Brown communities that have been historically underserved and where schools are most in need of investment. That’s why we proudly support the Carbon Free and Healthy Schools initiative. This is a chance to take a big step forward on climate and emissions, while also making our schools healthier and safer for kids and everyone who works there.”
“This is the moment when have to take action on climate at the scale science demands,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “This is the moment when we can make real progress on long-standing issues in our school facilities, and make them healthier and safer for kids and the school community. This is the time to move our city forward in ways that also create good union jobs and save millions of dollars for schools.”
“As taxpayers prepare to invest trillions in infrastructure to spur an economic recovery, Carbon Free and Healthy Schools need to be a priority,” said Gary, LaBarbera, President of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “This program will create thousands of new jobs, make our schools healthier and safer, and position New York City as a leader on the use of green infrastructure to tackle the climate crisis. We aim to stand side-by-side with the city, our federal delegation, and other allies to make this happen.”
“This is a moment when we can go big—enlisting federal support and building on earlier work to put solar on some New York City schools—and implement energy-efficiency retrofits and solar power across the city’s public-school buildings,” said Jeff Vockrodt, Executive Director of Climate Jobs NY. “Together, we can make New York City schools a model of green infrastructure, make schools healthier and safer for students and the school community, create good union jobs, and save schools millions in energy costs.”
The New York City Department of Education currently spends about $275 million per year to power and heat school buildings. With just a 25 percent improvement in energy efficiency and a robust solar power installation program, the City could save about $70 million per year. There are dozens of case studies of school districts that have successfully saved money by investing in energy efficiency and solar power, including the San Jose Unified School District, which installed solar panels at 14 schools for an anticipated energy savings of more than $25 million over the 25-year life of the system.