INTRODUCTION OF THE SCHOOL ENERGY CRISIS RELIEF ACT -- HON. JOE BACA (Extensions of Remarks - October 28, 2005)
* Mr. BACA. Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the School Energy Crisis Relief Act to provide relief to school districts that have been hit hard by rising fuel costs. This bill is widely supported and has received endorsements from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, American Federation of Teachers, National School Boards Association and Council of Great City Schools. I would especially like to thank all 26 of my colleagues who have signed on as original cosponsors.
* We all know that gas prices were skyrocketing for months before the major hurricanes disrupted fuel production on the Gulf Coast. While some school districts anticipated rising energy costs and budgeted accordingly this year, many others will fall short of the funding needed to meet these costs. As a result, precious education dollars are being spent to fill the tanks of school buses and to heat classrooms. States with areas with wide-open spaces, including much of the West and Midwest, will be especially hard-hit. Schools in urban areas will bear the brunt of additional fuel costs in order to heat the Nation's oldest, and often least energy-efficient, school buildings.
* It's not hard to understand why school buses are gas-guzzlers. According to an article in the USA Today, a Fairfax County school district in Virginia which transports 110,000 students daily pays $2.19 a gallon for diesel fuel. A typical school bus takes 65 gallons. That makes the price of a full tank $142, and it doesn't go far in a vehicle that gets 7 miles per gallon.
* The dramatic increase in gas prices therefore imposes a significant burden. For example, in my district, the Colton Joint Unified School District's buses rack up over a million miles a year. In September, the district paid $2.72 for a gallon of diesel fuel, which 2 years ago cost under a dollar. As a result, the district is spending at least $300,000 more to fuel its buses than a couple years ago.
* Many school districts across the country are already operating on shoe-string budgets this year. These price hikes threaten to exhaust the budgets of those caught unprepared for higher fuel costs. Recent news reports indicate that some schools are implementing drastic measures to keep their fuel costs under control. In Kentucky, for instance, record gas prices have caused a number of schools to cut back to 4 days of classes a week. Last month, most of Georgia's schools cancelled classes for two days in an effort to conserve fuel.
* The School Energy Crisis Relief Act authorizes the Secretary of Energy to issue energy assistance grants to help the poorest school districts across the Nation offset these unexpected and challenging costs. If we don't help school districts cover these energy costs, children won't just get left behind--they will be left at home! At a time when fuel price hikes are creating budget shortfalls for many school districts, America cannot afford to compromise our children's education.
* I urge my colleagues to support the School Energy Crisis Relief Act. This legislation will help schools remain open to educate students. We must provide relief to these school districts most in need now.