It’s time to fund resilient Florida schools

Florida’s public and charter schools present a huge opportunity and risk for climate resilience. As hurricane season becomes longer and more intense, Florida needs local resiliency solutions that will strengthen communities and help them stay connected with local power sources, remain cool with air conditioning and save money month after month.

By using federal funds from the American Rescue Plan, we can invest in solar and battery storage solutions that will help our schools achieve these goals and more.

However, failing to invest in energy resilience for our schools will mean higher energy bills, draining much needed resources from education, to the tune of $500 million per year. And potentially thousands of members of our communities without power during extreme weather events: 97% of emergency shelters in Florida are K-12 schools, but only about 100 of them have solar + storage systems.

This is why there is strong bipartisan support in Florida for resilient, energy secure schools.

The benefits of Resilient Schools are clear:

  • Energy Savings Energy is typically among the top 3 expenses for schools. This program unlocks more savings, keeping dollars in schools where they can be used to fund student success.
  • Healthy Environment Cleanenergy reduces air and carbon pollution, leaving a healthier Florida for our children.
  • Community ResilienceUsing solar and on-site battery storage to provide backup power for schools during outages
  • Educational STEM OpportunitiesSchools’ investments in energy saving technologies such as solar provide real-world learning opportunities in STEM field

Incorporating solar into Florida’s schools isn’t just a dream. It’s already happening. NeoCity Academy in Central Florida is able to meet 100% of its average annual energy needs via solar. This allows them to divert resources away from electricity bills and pour those funds back into the classroom, where they can power learning. Learn more about NeoCity Academy here.

Similarly, in Arkansas, Batesville School District worked with an energy expert who found the district could lower its $600,000 annual utility bills by at least $2.4 million over 20 years using solar power, updated lighting and windows and efficient heating and cooling systems. The project has turned a $250K budget deficit into a $1.8 million surplus in just three years. The district is now raising teacher salaries by $3,000 and 20 other school districts in Arkansas are following their example.

Florida is in the process of receiving significant funds from the federal American Rescue Plan bill that was passed by Congress. Many of these funds are earmarked to help our schools to build back safer. As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and move towards another hurricane season, solar + storage investments are critical to building an affordable, energy secure future for our State.

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