October 26, 2020 • The Optimist Daily

How switching schools to renewables can improve quality of education

In 2017, the Batesville School District, Arkansas, was facing serious financial struggles because of its high energy bills. In fact, the struggles were so big that most of its schools, six in total, were having a hard time retaining teachers and some of them even faced a possible shutdown. Fortunately, none of that happened thanks to a decision to switch the entire school district to renewables.

After conducting an audit, the district realized that it could save up to $2.4 million over the next 20 years if they installed 1,400 solar panels and energy-efficient lights. Figuring that they could use this money to increase their teachers’ salaries, the schools were quick to make the switch.

“Let’s use that money to start pumping up teachers’ salaries,” said Superintendent Michael Hester. “It’s the way we’re going to attract and retain staff. And it’s the way we’re going to attract and retain students in this day and age of school choice.”

Eventually, the green transition enabled the schools to go from $250,000 in annual deficit to $1.8 million in annual surplus. As a result, teachers’ salaries have increased by $2,000 to $3,000.

But the schools in the Batesville School District are not the only ones making such a forward-thinking energy shift. A recent report from Generation180 shows that more than 7,300 schools in the US use renewable power to save on utility bills, amounting to about 16 percent of all schools in the country. With funds freed up, schools can then improve the quality of education.

What’s more, the report also stresses that if all public schools in the US switched to solar, the education sector could reduce emissions equivalent to shutting down 18 coal plants.