It’s time for LAUSD’s own Green New Deal

With Earth Day approaching and students across the world engaging in walkouts and other new activism around climate change, we should be thinking about how to bring the powerful concept of a Green New Deal directly to our schools.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the largest property owner in the County of Los Angeles, and thus a key player in California’s aggressive push to decarbonize. Our school campuses and administrative buildings should be retrofitted for energy efficiency and aggressively equipped with solar panels. Our school bus fleet should be upgraded to run on natural gas or electricity.

The large swaths of heat-producing asphalt that dominate our education spaces should be returned to green - with trees that connect them to the urban forest, with rainwater infiltration systems, and with joint use agreements that allow communities to access these spaces for recreation when our schools are not in session.

The extraordinary amount of food that is sent from our schools to greenhouse gas emitting landfills should be recycled - edible food should be donated to families, and other food scraps should be composted onsite and turned into fertilizer for school gardens.

More importantly, a schools-based Green New Deal will spark economic growth in our region — and we need to develop a comprehensive strategy to provide our students with the knowledge and skills to put them first in line for the environmental engineering, science, and retrofitting jobs of the future.

To start with, we need to double down on making sure that our students have access to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) instruction. We need to invest in schools like STEAM Legacy High School in South Gate — a community that has long endured environmental impacts due to the close proximity of heavy industry, and which should be ground zero for preparing our students to become the agents and beneficiaries of a long lasting Green New Deal.

A Green New Deal should be bond-funded, and should create long-term savings for LAUSD. Reduced energy bills and the ability to pull in funds like those dedicated by Measure W for greening and stormwater capture can help offset the upfront costs of adapting our campuses. Overall, this should be a great deal for our students who will benefit from cooler campuses, career opportunities, and a more sustainable future.