Evaluating K-12 Public School District Sustainability Plans for Climate and Energy Justice

Nearly 50 percent of all Philadelphia schools lack functioning HVAC (including window-unit air conditioners), and indoor temperatures exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months, which also leads to school facility closures. Boiler equipment in some Philadelphia schools dates back to the 1940s, which makes maintenance difficult and exposes building inhabitants to other ventilation harms, while also producing energy burdens that reify existing inequities for low-wealth communities and districts.
Researchers estimate that carbon emissions from all K-12 public schools total 78 million metric tons annually, or 9 percent of all energy used by U.S. buildings. By failing to adequately conceptualize and fund school facilities as community infrastructure, inadequate school facilities can weaken community-level resiliency and increase social vulnerability during climate change. In recent years, school districts have created and pursued climate and sustainability plans to address some of the above problems, but lack of funding and guidance create differential outcomes across places.
This research proposal collects these plans for large (over 40,000 students) districts to understand not only how they are addressing facility-level issues, but also how they are (or can) address the broader educational, environmental, and energy injustices listed above. 

Akira Drake Rodriquez

Assistant Professor of City Planning
Akira Drake Rodriquez is an Assistant Professor of City Planning at the Stuart Weitzman School of Design. Her research examines the politics of urban planning.