In school districts across the country, unions are organizing to advance a bold vision for carbon-free and healthy schools that will create good union jobs in school communities, slash carbon emissions, save school districts millions of dollars in energy costs, improve student health and learning outcomes, and advance racial equity.
What’s at stake
After decades of underfunding and disinvestment, many of our nation’s public school buildings are crumbling. More than 50% of our public school buildings are at least 50 years old and need major renovations to deal with issues like leaking roofs, broken air-conditioning, outdated HVAC systems, mold or mildew issues, and poor air quality.
Outdated school facilities are also major polluters. Nationwide, public schools burn as much carbon as 18 coal-fired power plants and use approximately $8 billion in energy every year. Decarbonizing schools is key to meeting our climate targets.
There’s an unprecedented amount of federal money for schools on the table right now. With billions of federal dollars available, school districts are in a position to make generational investments in building a carbon-free future.
From energy efficiency retrofits to lead pipe remediation and solar panel installation, we’ve got a ton of work to do. By coupling investments with union training provisions and strong labor and equity standards, school decarbonization could create millions of good-paying union careers that help reverse the racial wage gap and economic inequality.
If we focus on prioritizing schools in frontline communities of color, we can also help advance racial justice and ensure the benefits of our climate investments flow to under-resourced communities.
Unions and state climate jobs coalitions are leading the charge for carbon-free and healthy schools in a growing number of cities and neighborhoods around the country.