Climate Protection: California’s most vulnerable children are in classrooms where there is no air conditioning

Op-Ed: California makes it too hard for schools to shield kids from extreme heat by requiring them to buy new air conditioners after a hot day or after a school has been closed for a day. It’s time for the state to change this law and offer a waiver of the mandate.

When it comes to protecting kids from the elements, California is a world leader. Nearly 90 percent of California’s schoolchildren are served by air conditioning, according to recent research commissioned by the California Alliance for Climate Protection. In the state’s largest urban areas — as many as 80 percent of which are in the same climate zones as New York City and Chicago — air conditioning is the norm. Yet with more than half the state’s schoolchildren in air-conditioned classrooms and a third under the age of six, one of those most vulnerable children remains in a classroom where there is no air conditioning.

This is a problem, and it’s one that has the state’s government and education officials in a tizzy. As the state considers how to reform the way the state handles heat-related illnesses, a bill was proposed last week by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) that would change the law so that schools could forgo a pricey air conditioner for every student once they enter the heat.

Proposing this bill is the California Association of School Business Officials, which is led by an outspoken, well-to-do former president of Tuolumne County Schools and has successfully lobbied for laws that make it difficult for schools and parents to insulate children against hot weather. In a statement, the group called the bill “a step backwards” to protect children from heat-related risks. The statement also noted that air conditioning is in fact a preventative measure that students have been taught to use in science class for decades.

But according to the Associated Press, education officials have rejected this bill, citing that it would

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