Vote Yes! For electric school buses! Vote Yes! For the health of students!

The health of our students is negatively affected by the community they live in and the school they attend.

On Long Island, we are all familiar with the ways in which some of our communities have historically been, and continue to be, defined in areas that are oversaturated with polluting infrastructure such as landfills, power plants, waste transfer stations and incinerators, creating what the New York State Department of Conservation (NYSDEC) calls Potential Environmental Justice Areas (PEJAs).

Our communities like Wyandanch, North Bellport, Central Islip, Mastics and Brentwood have the most asthma emergency room visits in Suffolk County. Our communities like Freeport are seeing our children’s right to green space being trampled on, even though the community is fighting back!

Another way we can fight back is to vote Yes on Proposition 1 on this year’s ballot for the Clean Air, Clean Water, Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, which would invest in electric school buses.

Pursuant to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019 (CLCPA), which sets New York State emissions reduction mandates by 2050, the Climate Justice Working Group (CJWG) was established. The CJWG is a group of nine members who were appointed to develop criteria for disadvantaged communities; this criterion will be used to ensure that at least 35-40% of all climate-related funds are spent in communities identified as disadvantaged. The criteria take into account the cumulative impacts of environmental and health burdens, as well as population characteristics.

Why electric school buses? Diesel and gas school bus emissions create poor air quality that contributes to the climate crisis and also creates hazardous environmental health conditions for our children, especially our children living in disadvantaged communities. We need to make sure we get off diesel, off expensive gas, and pass the Clean Air, Clean Water and Green Jobs Green Bonds Act.

The CLCPA provides the mandates to reduce emissions, and the CJWG provides guidance on which communities should be prioritized. The Clean Air, Clean Water, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act seeks to fund our communities on the front lines of the climate and public health crisis. Just like the CLCPA mandate, the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act requires that 35-40% of the benefits of new school bus investments go to disadvantaged communities facing cumulative environmental impacts.

Voting “Yes” on the Clean Air, Clean Water and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act enables us to have funding to replace 45,000 diesel and gas school buses in New York State with clean modern all-electric school buses for our students . Our current school buses break down and have old engines that cost us time and money. The condition of our school buses not only contributes to the emissions that create poor air quality, but also to noise pollution. Our students deserve a clean, safe and reliable bus ride to and from school.

When we vote for our students, we also vote for the many bus operators and staff who are also overexposed to harmful fumes from diesel and gas school buses.

Now is the time to vote Yes on investing $500 million in our students and student health! This funding will be used to purchase electric buses and chargers and to provide people who work for the bus companies with access to electric fleet maintenance training.

Long Island is on the front lines of the climate crisis, with our coastline threatened by rising seas. Long Islanders can make a big impact this election cycle to reduce this threat when we vote for electric school buses.

We have 127 school districts on Long Island. Vote Yes on the Clean Air Clean Water Environmental Bond Act to ensure we prioritize our students, our children, our communities and our bus industry workers who fight the hardest to breathe fresh air.

Monique Fitzgerald is a climate justice organizer at the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

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