Education Policy: Schools & Climate

With around 1,400 schools serving over 900,000 students, the Maryland public school system constitutes one of our state’s largest public sectors. Schools are essential, widespread infrastructure and, as such, should play a significant frontline role in the fight against climate change. 

Maryland’s students and educators are burdened with inadequate and outdated public school buildings and buses, which causes disproportionate harm to Black and Latino schoolchildren. Baltimore City has a childhood asthma rate at double the national average which significantly boosts absenteeism among students. This issue is compounded by the vicious combination of warming temperatures and poor school infrastructure — 35 Baltimore City schools closed at some point this past June because their air conditioning was insufficient to deal with heat waves. 

Maryland is aching for real leadership. We are still building new school buildings that fail to meet clean energy standards, our diesel school bus fleet exposes students to harmful pollution, and we are not doing enough to train the clean-energy work force we need. There is tremendous opportunity for the next governor to center public schools in the fight against climate change while simultaneously equipping historically underserved students with the tools they need to lead our state into a sustainable future. John, who currently co-chairs the Aspen Institute K-12 Climate Action Commission, has the vision necessary to get that done. 

As Governor, John will: 

Commit to achieve 100% clean energy use in all Maryland public K-12 schools, community colleges, HBCUs, and University of Maryland campuses by 2030. 

  • Increase energy-efficiency and adopt renewable energy like solar and geothermal at all public schools and campuses. 
  • Use Maryland’s state school infrastructure funds to ensure all repairs, renovations, and new buildings meet clean energy standards and create good jobs at a prevailing wage. 
  • Utilize state and federal funds to make sure all students drink clean water and breathe clean air. 
    • Increase investment in facilities including improvements to air conditioning, HVAC/ventilation, and ensuring lead-free drinking water.
  • Prioritize funds to communities most affected by climate change and with the most outdated school infrastructure — particularly communities of color and low-income communities. 

Commit to achieve 100% clean transportation for all public K-12 schools by 2030. 

  • Transition Maryland’s over 7,000 school buses from diesel to electric. 
  • Cut exposure to harmful pollutants and work to drive down alarmingly high asthma rates in communities of color like Baltimore City. 
  • Build charging infrastructure at schools for buses, families, and educators and invest in training programs that support the workforce in the transition to electric bus technology. 

Invest in education and workforce development to ensure today’s youth are equipped to understand climate change, advance bold climate solutions, and succeed in the green economy. 

  • Increase funding for STEM, climate change, environmental sustainability, and career and technical programs in K-12, community colleges, HBCUs, and the other UMD institutions. 
  • Work with Maryland educators, students, and parents to integrate cross-curricular climate change standards. 
  • Center historically underserved students and institutions in opportunities for high-quality career and technical education programming for the high-skill and high-wage green careers of the future.  

Invest in transitioning heat-trapping asphalt schoolyards to green schoolyards to increase access to green space for communities and build community resilience. 

  • Leverage federal and state funding to ensure schools and communities can benefit from healthy spaces to learn and play while also reducing community heat and flooding.
  • Prioritize funding to communities with the least access to green space and most impacted by heat and stormwater run-off. 

Increasing access to locally-grown sustainable food and reducing food waste in schools.

  • Build on Maryland’s existing efforts and increase farm-to-school programs, school gardens, and food education to ensure students have access to healthy locally-grown food. 
  • Increase awareness and access to share tables, food donation, and composting to reduce food waste in schools.