Teresa Tenorio -Mother and Las Cruces Public Schools Board member
I recently read an opinion piece from Rep. Debbie Sarinana about the School Bus Modernization Act to be considered in the 2024 Legislative Session. This legislation will designate state funding and simplify systems to make it financially feasible for school districts that want to retire aging diesel buses with electric buses. No mandates, just opportunity and funding.
As the mother of three kids in public schools who is about to start my second term on the Las Cruces Public Schools (LCPS) Board of Education (District 4), I cannot tell you how pleased I am by this prospect.
LCPS leadership is forward-thinking. In 2021, I encouraged our former superintendent and deputy superintendent to attend an informational session in El Paso for the federal electric bus grant. I’m so glad I did because LCPS applied for and won an award for five electric buses that will arrive in the spring! This Fall, our school board passed a resolution asking legislators for funding this session for electric school buses, work vehicles, and infrastructure. Lastly, two board colleagues are drafting an electric bus policy that will come up for the board’s consideration.
We have the benefit of learning from the successes of districts in every state and territory that have received funding to replace some old diesel buses with new electric ones. We can learn from urban districts and rural communities, in hot or cold, snowy climates. Right up north, Santa Fe Public Schools is having a great experience with their electric buses, and I hear the drivers and mechanics love them.
These buses are for the benefit of our school children. For decades, students have been breathing in the diesel exhaust from the buses, which studies have shown can lead to asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Most of us experienced it as kids, and we want our kids to experience something different. New electric school buses will also benefit school employees and bus drivers exposed to diesel exhaust. We can see health improvements in other communities that have switched from diesel to electric, and we should bring that change to schools across New Mexico.
An immediate and noticeable difference is that electric buses are virtually silent. Imagine riding a school bus where you could talk to your seatmate without yelling. Bus drivers can be more attentive to their surroundings, so hopefully, kids will get away with fewer antics so everyone will have safer and more enjoyable times on bus trips.
As a school board member, we oversee our district budget, and I know we must be thoughtful about our resources. Aging diesel buses are expensive to maintain and fuel, and electric school buses will save us money over time. Research shows we can save between $4,000 and $11,000 per school bus annually.
The startup for purchasing electric buses is expensive, and that’s why the School Bus Modernization Act is necessary. New Mexico should seize the opportunity to couple state funds with funds from the Clean School Bus Program in the Inflation Reduction Act. This will make it economically feasible for every school district wanting to make the switch. I want this opportunity for LCPS and for schools across New Mexico. Please join me in contacting your representative to express your support for this important legislation.