As the debate in Lansing regarding education funding reform intensifies, State Representative Jim Ananich (D-Flint) is offering a measure that would help keep money in the classroom by encouraging energy upgrades in schools.

“If we want to be serious about improving education funding, we need to look at ways of helping schools help themselves,” said Ananich, a member of the House School Aid Fund Committee. “This measure will provide savings that can be better spent on our kids, and help produce local jobs.”

The Weatherization Heating and Energy Efficiency Loans for Schools, or "WHEELS" program, is based on an effort in Oregon and other states that allows school districts to apply for loans to reduce energy use and create jobs. A single school district in Oregon saw an annual energy savings of more than $214,000 because of a loan program that WHEELS is based on. Key highlights of the legislation include:

  • School districts will have no increase in costs due to repaying the loans. The loans would be paid back at rates based on the savings the districts would see in their energy bills as a result of the projects funded by the loans themselves. State taxpayers recoup their investment by having more efficient schools and the repayment of the loans.
  • Projects funded by the loans will create jobs for state and local businesses that will be contracted to manufacture, install, and maintain the new energy efficient improvements.
  • Eligible upgrades include replacement or retrofitting of energy inefficient facilities, as well as decreasing fuel costs and replacing school buses with more efficient or alternative fuel vehicles.

Ananich, a former teacher, helped lead education funding task force meetings around Genesee County and across the state last year in opposition to the severe education cuts. He also supports HJR U, which would protect K-12 education funding from being diverted to other uses.