© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
89.9 FM is currently running on reduced power. 89.9 HD1 and HD2 are off the air. While we work to fix the issue, we recommend downloading the WSHU app.

Republican lawmakers want to delay New York’s electric school bus mandate

Republican lawmakers in New York called on the state legislature to rescind a state directive that all school buses be electric by 2035 at a press conference on Monday, February 12.
State Sen. Tom O’Mara's office
Republican lawmakers in New York called on the state legislature to rescind a state directive that all school buses be electric by 2035 at a press conference on Monday, February 12.

Republican lawmakers in New York are calling on the state legislature to rescind a state directive that all school buses be electric by 2035, and that districts only purchase new, all-electric buses beginning in 2027.

A proposed bill would delay the mandate’s implementation until at least 2045 and require additional cost-benefit and safety analyses before it can take effect.

The electric school bus mandate passed in 2022 as part of the state budget with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from school transportation, in alignment with the state’s climate and sustainability commitments. Districts can access state and federal funding to offset the costs.

However, some lawmakers say the timeline to transition the state’s nearly 50,000 school buses puts undue stress on districts and taxpayers.

“The vehicles and the infrastructure are at its most expensive point,” said state Sen. Tom O’Mara at a press conference calling to rescind the mandate on Monday. “It will get cheaper over time as we perfect these and get better, but why are we doing this on the backs of our school districts? On the backs of school property taxpayers?"

O’Mara added that small and rural districts, like the ones he represents in the Finger Lakes and parts of the Southern Tier, face particularly stark challenges budgeting for these new school buses.

Electric buses are more expensive to purchase than some diesel alternatives. However, the state energy authority expects those costs to reach parity by 2027 due to advances in battery technology, increased supply chain outputs, and savings in fuel and maintenance spending.

Some school officials are also concerned about the requirements.

“Districts across the state need an immediate pause of this initiative because of the projected costs and timeline,” said Dr. Thomas J. Douglas, superintendent of Horseheads Central School District in Chemung County, in a press release calling to delay the mandate.

Last month, members of the state School Board Association called for more flexibility in the mandate as well.

New York was the first state to roll out a plan to turn school buses electric statewide. However, other states, like Vermont, have also tested the idea, finding that electric buses serve as a viable transportation option even in cold and varied terrain.

Districts are permitted to apply for a two-year extension to the 2027 deadline for purchasing all-electric school buses.