WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Biden-Harris Administration, through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), today announced the first round of selectees for the Renew America’s Schools grant program, a competitive award that will support the implementation of energy improvements in K–12 schools across the country. There are 24 Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in 22 states that will share in approximately $178 million of funding, enabling them to pursue diverse projects to lower energy costs, lower emissions, and create healthier, safer, and more supportive learning environments in their schools. This historic investment will directly benefit about 74,000 students and 5,000 teachers in 97 school buildings across America. DOE’s focus on public schools, which make up the second-largest sector of American infrastructure after transportation, supports President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda by promoting STEM education and workforce development, while creating well-paying jobs that stimulate local economies. The announcement comes on the heels on President Biden delivering a major economic address on “Bidenomics” – his vision for growing the economy from the middle-out and bottom-up, including by investing in American infrastructure.
“Thanks to President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, DOE is demonstrating scalable and replicable clean energy models that will create healthier and safer K-12 schools,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.
“The future of America goes through the schoolhouse door. There’s nothing more critical than investing in the health and education of our nation’s kids,” said Senior Advisor to the President and White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu. “Because of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, 74,000 children will reap the benefits of schools that are more comfortable, energy efficient, and safe.”
Over half of LEAs need to update or replace multiple building systems or features in their facilities. Applications for the Renew America’s Schools grant reflect this; 78% of applicants requested improvements in HVAC, 55% requested improvements in lighting, 41% requested building controls, and 30% requested improvements to the building envelope.
Demand for this funding was unprecedented. LEAs from 48 states and two territories submitted over 1,000 concept papers, totaling nearly $5.5 billion in requests. After receiving feedback on their project proposals, 236 LEAs from 44 states submitted eligible full applications, with requests totaling $1.62 billion. Of these proposals, 95% included schools that qualified for Title 1 Schoolwide Programming, 73% included schools in which over 50% of the student population qualified for Free and Reduced-Price lunch, 48% included schools located in DOE-identified Disadvantaged Communities (DACs), and 45% included schools in a rural locale.
In response to the high demand and overwhelming evidence of public need, DOE more than doubled the funding for Round 1 of the competition from $80 million to $178 million. After extensive review of this highly competitive field, DOE identified 24 Selectees that demonstrated significant technical merit and responsiveness to the goals of the funding opportunity.
Renew America’s Schools Grant: Selected Local Education Agencies
- Alexandria City Public Schools, Alexandria, VA
- Austin Independent School District, Austin, TX
- Baltimore County Public Schools, Windsor Mill, MD
- Bridgeport Public Schools (in partnership with University of Connecticut), Bridgeport, CT
- Cass Lake-Bena Public Schools (in partnership with Region Five Development Commission), Cass Lake, MN
- Charlo School District, Charlo, MT
- Choctaw County School District, Weir, MS
- Clinton School District, Clinton, AR
- Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, Fairbanks, AK
- Greenup County School District, Greenup, KY
- Jefferson County School District, Birmingham, AL
- Kane County School District, Kanab, UT
- Matchbook Learning Centers, Indianapolis, IN
- Memphis-Shelby County Schools, Memphis, TN
- Natick Public Schools, Natick, MA
- North Wasco County School District 21, Mosier, OR
- Nottoway County Public Schools, Blackstone, VA
- Porterville Unified School District, Porterville, CA
- St. Maries School District #41, Saint Maries, ID
- Warner Public Schools Oklahoma, Warner, OK
- White River School District 47-1, White River, SD
- William Penn School District, Yeadon, PA
- Williamsfield Schools (CUSD #210) and 19 LEAs, Williamsfield, IL
- Winnett Public School District #1, Winnett, MT
Selectees for the 2022–2023 Renew America’s Schools grant represent diverse communities across the country, pursuing impactful strategies to improve their facilities. Most LEAs are planning to upgrade their HVAC systems (88%), lighting (71%), and building envelope (58%), and most (54%) either plan to update or install controls (54%). Many LEAs are installing innovative technology packages, including solar panels and batteries (42%), and alternative-fuel vehicle infrastructure (13%). Many are collaborating with partners such as energy service companies, unions, utilities, and higher education institutions to bring these projects to fruition. All have predicted benefits to their students, staff, and families — including health benefits from improved indoor air quality, improved thermal comfort, and better lighting; and financial benefits from reduced energy expenditures.
In addition, through the Community Benefits Plans required by DOE from all applicants, these districts have committed to specific economic and environmental benefits to the communities where projects will take place. For instance, of the five projects that are on Tribal lands, two include commitments to offer construction jobs first to Tribal members, and one commits to prioritizing apprenticeship opportunities for local youth. More than half of the projects include specific commitments to work with labor unions, and with union-affiliated apprenticeship programs, to ensure that construction, operations, and maintenance jobs pay a family-supporting wage and include strong health and safety standards – all while providing clear opportunities to women, veterans, tribes, and workers of color. And nearly every project includes a strong commitment to tying career technical education programs within the schools to job opportunities on the project, providing an entryway for students into high quality jobs in the construction trades.
The Renew America’s Schools grant is part of the $500 million Renew America’s Schools program, funded by the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Funding for the first round of the competition meets and exceeds the goals of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative to put environmental and economic justice at the center of America’s transition to a net-zero economy. In their projects, 63% of selectees include schools located in a DOE-identified DAC, including 21% in tribal areas.
For further information about the Renew America’s Schools Program or Round 1 Selectees, please email [email protected]. DOE anticipates releasing a second round of funding in Spring 2024.
This announcement builds on the Administration’s broader commitment to ensure that America’s children have what they need to thrive with new clean school buses, net zero schools, energy efficiency, improved air quality, and clean energy at rural schools. Since the Biden-Harris Action Plan for Building Better School Infrastructure was first announced in April 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration historic legislative accomplishments have continued to build on progress that’s been made to deliver safer, healthier, and more environmentally sustainable learning environments for America’s children, while saving school districts money, creating good jobs, and combatting climate change.