Mandatory Air Conditioning for Louisiana School Buses Hits Dead End

Louisiana’s school year begins in August during peak heat and many public school systems do not have air conditioning on all of their buses.

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Children who ride school buses without climate control will have to continue to endure Louisiana’s extreme heat and occasional cold snaps. State legislators shelved legislation last week to require buses to have heating and air conditioning throughout the vehicles.

The Louisiana House of Representatives voted 56-43 to kill Senate Bill 26, sponsored by Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, that would have mandated climate control measures on all buses serving public schools by 2032.

House Republicans, mostly representing rural areas, said their school districts would not be able to afford such a requirement.

“This is an unfunded mandate that a lot of school boards just cannot bear,” Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, said.

Louisiana’s school year begins in August, when the heat index can regularly exceed 100 degrees. Many public school systems do not have air conditioning on all of their buses, according to a legislative fiscal analysis.

Only two of 44 school buses in Calcasieu Parish have air conditioning, and they are used specifically for special education students. Just a third of the school buses in East Baton Rouge Parish and 79 of 278 school buses in Rapides Parish have air conditioning.

Some jurisdictions – including Baton Rouge, Jefferson Ouachita, Tangipahoa and Morehouse parishes – recently used federal grants to purchase new buses with air conditioning. Ascension, Lafayette and Grant parishes also paid this year to air condition their fleets.

State law already requires school buses to be replaced once they reach 25 years old. Purchasing a new bus costs between $50,000 and $200,000, legislative staff said. Heating and air conditioning on a bus increases its cost by $10,000 to $15,000, according to the Louisiana Department of Education.

“My poor little town is broker than the Ten Commandments,” said Rep. Dewith Carrier, R-Oakdale, who opposed the legislation.

Other legislators said the state needs to be concerned more about the health and welfare of school children.

“Let me ask this question: Who serving in this House doesn’t have air conditioning in their car?” said Rep. Robby Carter, D-Greensburg, during House floor debate on the legislation. “We get it for ourselves. Why not get it for our kids?”

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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