Support Rhode Island Green & Healthy Schools

Governor Daniel McKee, Rhode Island Senate, Rhode Island House of Representatives

Rhode Island has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet our challenges head-on and invest in our future. With historic investments in the months and years ahead, we can modernize and fully decarbonize every school building by 2030.

The state has just begun the hard work to improve and modernize school buildings. However, the existing investment is not enough to meet the dire need throughout our state. Poor ventilation, crumbling ceilings, leaky roofs, mold, rotted pipes, and lead service lines not only risk the health and safety of children, but they also lead to poor learning outcomes.

Furthermore, climate change brings a monumental set of challenges. Our children will bear the brunt of the climate crisis. It's also our kids who are especially susceptible to the air pollution from our current energy systems. As Rhode Island considers effective pathways to decarbonize buildings, we can begin to tackle this challenge by starting with every public school building in the state.

It’s time to fully transition our schools into the clean energy future with good, skilled union jobs. An investment in our children and our workers is an investment in our communities.

Putting Rhode Island on the path to green and healthy schools with strong labor standards allows us to combat climate change, keep our kids and staff safe, improve learning outcomes, keep money in our communities, and create thousands of good union jobs.

These transformative investments can begin with available ARPA funds in connection with a second school construction bond in 2022. Let's not waste this golden opportunity to modernize and fully decarbonize our school buildings by 2030.

Petition by
Erica Hammond
Warwick, Rhode Island

To: Governor Daniel McKee, Rhode Island Senate, Rhode Island House of Representatives
From: [Your Name]

Continuing your commitment to Rhode Island’s education infrastructure, we urge you to modernize and decarbonize Rhode Island’s public school buildings. These critical modifications can be made using currently available ARPA funds in connection with a second school construction bond in 2022. Investments to fully decarbonize by 2030 using the strongest labor standards will address multiple critical needs for Rhode Islanders.

Maintaining outdated energy systems prevent school districts from making greater investments in our students. This is money that could be better invested to improve school curriculum and to improve other needs. Furthermore, outdated energy systems are shown to have negative human health and environmental impacts. By constructing green and healthy school buildings with good local jobs, Rhode Island will be working to safeguard our future where it matters most: our kids.

Poor ventilation, crumbling ceilings, leaky roofs, mold, rotted pipes, and lead service lines not only risk the health and safety of children, but they also lead to poor learning outcomes. Often, some schools in the worst condition exist in low-income communities of color, where decades of disinvestment translate into lower graduation rates and higher asthma rates.

Rhode Island needs to begin dialing down our dependence on fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic climate change and meet its Act on Climate goals. Energy use from buildings represents a significant share of that dependence. As Rhode Island considers effective pathways to decarbonize buildings, we can begin to tackle this challenge by starting with every public school building in the state.

By ensuring strong labor standards, like Project Labor Agreements (PLA) and Community Workforce Agreements currently being used by school districts on projects, future retrofits and new school construction will create thousands of good union jobs and opportunities to train new community members into family-supporting careers in the building trades. The Labor Leading on Climate Initiative at the Worker Institute of Cornell University estimates that transitioning all K-12 public schools in Rhode Island to net-zero emissions would create a total of 11,209 direct jobs over a span of nine years.

Putting Rhode Island on the path to green and healthy schools with strong labor standards allows us to combat climate change, keep our kids and staff safe, improve learning outcomes, keep money in our communities, and create thousands of good union jobs. We urge you to begin with a down payment on this opportunity in a bond referendum in 2022 and prioritize the first investments in frontline communities of color who for decades have borne the brunt of environmental injustice. With $1.4 billion in school construction already approved since 2018, we also ask that you set aside ARPA funds for school districts that are undergoing or will soon have projects underway, so that they can invest in projects that were not originally planned.

Let’s not waste this golden opportunity to begin fixing what is broken and mobilize our transition to a carbon-free and healthy future.