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House Democrats to introduce plan to make Michigan schools more energy efficient

A group of people standing in front of a podium which is in front of a elementary school.
State Rep. Stephanie Chang (podium) introducing the so-called ABC Education plan outside of Amelia Earhart Elementary in Detroit, a LEED certified school. Pictured: Camilleri (left), Chang, Wittenburg, Pagan (right).

Several Democratic state representatives are planning to introduce legislation Tuesday that would require Michigan schools to be more energy efficient, and develop standards for air and water testing.

The seven-bill package is aimed at improving the health and wellness of students and teachers in schools across the state. Dubbed the “ABC Education Plan," state Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, says the requirements outlined in the bills would also improve student achievement.

“We’re constantly talking about how can we make sure that our students have the best opportunity to succeed,” Chang said. “But no one really has talked about what is the environment in which we need our students to actually learn to make sure they have the best chance to succeed.”

Chang was joined by three other representatives, all authors of the legislation, part of the overall package, set to be introduced today at the Capitol.

Rep. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Twp., will introduce a bill that would effectively require local school districts to develop plans for regular water and air testing through the state Board of Education.

Chang’s bill would require environmental assessments to be conducted at any site of a proposed school. Another bill in the package that Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Oak Park, will introduce would require newly constructed schools to follow the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) lighting standards. The lawmakers say the bills are backed up by research that shows cleaner, well-lit schools make for healthier students and teachers.

Another bill Camilleri will introduce would create a one-time, $9 million supplemental appropriation to pay for water and air quality testing in schools. But overall, the lawmakers expect the bill to save districts money by requiring them to conduct energy audits every three years to become more energy efficient with another bill in the package.

“If we conduct energy audits within our schools, we can actually look for ways to save money and make our schools more efficient,” said Rep. Kristy Pagan, D-Canton. “Hopefully that would go into the classroom to make overall improvements.”

Pagan is introducing a bill that would create a curriculum to help students better understand environmental challenges and the impacts of climate change.

Chang says Democrats involved with the legislation are committed to building bipartisan support for the legislation.