Bowman to Biden: Support the Green New Deal for public schools

The $1.43 trillion plan would retrofit some of the highest-need schools

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Putting the words “Green New Deal” together doesn’t quite invoke political unity as one might suspect. Even within the Democratic Party.

But supporters of the federal measure — led by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — continue to not only push forward on bringing the environmental package to every doorstep in the country, but now it’s expanding as well, with a little help from another member of “The Squad,” U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

The former educator stood in front of John Philip Sousa Junior Middle School in Edenwald last week to unveil his Green New Deal for Public Schools Act. The massive $1.43 trillion proposal already has the support of more than 30 other lawmakers, intended to create more than 1.3 million jobs over the next 10 years while removing an amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere Bowman says is the equivalent of the exhaust from 17 million cars.

“Our kids are curious,” Bowman said. “Our kids our collaborative. They are cooperative. They are creative. And they are ready, willing and able to solve the problems in their own community, and solve the problems of the world. So we must invest in them to ensure that they have the resources they need to solve those problems.”

Bowman has earmarked a large chunk of his Green New Deal bill — $446 billion — on climate capital facilities grants, intended to fully fund green retrofits for the highest-need schools through a mix of grant funding and no- or low-interest loans.

Another $250 billion would be dedicated to block grants intended to fund staffing increases, expand social service programming and develop curriculum at high-need schools. Money there also could be used for what Bowman describes as the “whole child” approach to public education by serving all their needs both inside and outside the classroom.

“Schools are second homes for our children, and they need to reflect that,” schools chancellor Meisha Porter said. “So this is a vital investment to protect our schools and recognize the threat of climate culture. This is just building on — like Congressman Bowman said — the initiatives that we already started to build on.”

One way New York City schools could use such federal funding is to fulfill Porter’s goal of making its school bus fleet fully electric by 2035, she said.

The biggest expenditure in Bowman’s proposal would quadruple school district funding to help students living in poverty. That would bring such funding to above $66 billion a year, while also boosting money for students with disabilities to $33 billion.

Although he backs a number of environmental initiatives, President Biden has said in the past he doesn’t support the Green New Deal. So even if Bowman gets this package through both the U.S. House and the Senate, it might find significant barriers earning the president’s signature.

Bowman, however, isn’t worried.

“The president supports green infrastructure, and he realizes we have to invest a lot of money in transformative change with regard to our infrastructure,” Bowman said. “So maybe a while ago he said he can’t support the Green New Deal in and of itself, but he definitely supports green infrastructure, and he supports the equity component of that.”

Already a Green New Deal supporter, Mayor Bill de Blasio also found his way to the Bronx last week, declaring Bowman’s plan would “transform the United States of America.”

“This is what we have been waiting for,” de Blasio said. “The kind of change on a national level that would reach every child. Remember way back when they said ‘leave no child behind,’ and then they proceeded to leave a lot of kids behind? Jamaal Bowman is talking about actually bringing every child with us to a better future.”

No Republicans have signed onto Bowman’s bill, but he is getting support from some of his New York colleagues outside of The Squad including Adriano Espaillat, Carolyn Maloney, Grace Meng, Jerrold Nadler, Nydia Velazquez, Yvette Clark and Thomas Suozzi.

“We have to be very honest with ourselves,” Bowman said. “Our public schools were designed 100 years ago to respond to the industrial revolution. To prepare kids to work on assembly lines and jobs for the 19th century.

“We are in the 21st century, and we have to prepare our kids to solve the problems of the 21st and 22nd centuries — problems that are rooted in environmental justice, economic justice and racial justice.”

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