Louisiana School Buses Reach Roadblock with Air Conditioning Requirement

Children facing the scorching Louisiana sun or chilly snaps will continue commuting on non-climate-controlled school buses. Lawmakers opted to set aside a proposal on Tuesday that sought to make heating and cooling systems mandatory on all school buses.

The legislative bid, Senate Bill 26 put forward by Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, found itself defeated in the Louisiana House of Representatives by a vote of 56-43. The bill aimed to ensure all public school buses were equipped with climate control by 2032.

Reps from predominantly rural areas, mostly from the GOP, argued against it, citing financial constraints in their school districts.

“Many school boards find this a burdensome mandate they can’t afford,” noted Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton.

As the academic year kicks off in sweltering August when temperatures often soar above 100 degrees, numerous public school buses lack adequate air conditioning.

Only a minuscule proportion of buses in Calcasieu Parish, specifically two out of 44, boast air conditioning, predominantly assigned to special education students. In East Baton Rouge Parish, just a third of the buses and 79 out of 278 buses in Rapides Parish enjoy air conditioning.

Recent initiatives in certain districts like Baton Rouge, Jefferson Ouachita, Tangipahoa, and Morehouse parishes involved leveraging federal grants to acquire new air-conditioned buses. Ascension, Lafayette, and Grant parishes also took steps this year to cool down their fleets.

Existing legislation mandates the retirement of buses after 25 years. The cost of a new bus ranges between $50,000 and $200,000, factoring in the addition of heating and cooling systems on a bus escalates the cost by $10,000 to $15,000 as per the Louisiana Department of Education.

“Financially, my town is struggling more than one can imagine,” voiced Rep. Dewith Carrier, R-Oakdale, voicing his dissent.

Some lawmakers stressed prioritizing the well-being of school children, emphasizing the essential need to safeguard their health.

“While we enjoy air conditioning in our cars, why withhold this comfort from our children?” questioned Rep. Robby Carter, D-Greensburg, rationalizing the importance of providing climate control for students.

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