Jan 4, 2023 - News

Some school districts must wait on electric bus money

Illustration of a school bus with two electrical outlets on the roof

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Four school districts in Washington are getting federal money to replace gas-guzzling school buses with clean burning electric ones. But dozens of other school systems throughout the state will have to wait.

Why it matters: Replacing diesel-burning buses with electric-run ones has the potential to improve kids' health and development, while helping curb climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Catch up quick: Last fall, the federal government awarded about $1 billion to pay for about 2,500 electric school bus replacements across nearly 400 districts nationwide, Axios' Joann Muller reported.

Yes, but: Hundreds more applied for the funding, seeking a total of about $4 billion.

  • In Washington alone, more than 40 school districts that applied were placed on a federal waitlist.
  • Those districts will have to reapply for future funding rounds if they want to cash in on the federal Clean School Bus program (unless they get lucky and another district drops out).

Zoom in: South Whidbey School District is one of four in Washington state that won the initial lottery; it was awarded $395,000 to purchase a new electric school bus. The Pomeroy, Easton and Toppenish districts — located in eastern and central Washington — also received awards.

  • Seattle Public Schools did not apply. Spokesperson Tim Robinson said the federal rebate program is for districts that own their own buses, and Seattle uses two contractors to provide bus service.

What we're watching: More funding will be released each year as part of the federal Clean School Bus program, which is slated to award $5 billion over five years.

  • Some school districts — including Highline Public Schools south of Seattle, whose request for 25 electric buses was waitlisted — plan to apply again.
  • They're also seeking state money to help them continue to electrify their fleets.

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