22 Organizations Urge Department of Education to Protect Students from Extreme Heat at Schools

Twenty-two organizations and 29 individuals from across 12 states sent a letter calling on the U.S. Department of Education to take urgent action to protect students from the dangers of extreme heat on school campuses

WASHINGTON — With meteorologists predicting a potentially record-breaking hot summer ahead, a coalition of 22 organizations from across 12 states is urgently calling on the Department of Education to use its national platform and coordinating capabilities to help schools prepare for and respond to extreme heat. In a coalition letter sent today, spearheaded by the Federation of American Scientists and UndauntedK12, the groups recommend streamlining funding, enhancing research and data, and integrating heat resilience throughout education policies.

“The heat we’re experiencing today will only get worse. Our nation’s classrooms and campuses were not built to withstand this heat, and students are paying the price when we do not invest in adequate protections. Addressing extreme heat is essential to the Department of Education’s mission of equitable access to healthy, safe, sustainable, 21st century learning environmentssays Grace Wickerson, Health Equity Policy Manager at the Federation of American Scientists, who recently authored a policy memo on addressing heat in schools.

Many schools across the country – especially in communities of color – have aging infrastructure that is unfit for the heat. This infrastructure gap exposes millions of students to temperatures where it’s impossible to learn and unhealthy even to exist. Despite the rapidly growing threat of extreme heat fueled by climate change, no national guidance, research and data programs, or dedicated funding source exists to support U.S. schools in adapting to the heat.

“Many of our nation’s school campuses were designed for a different era – they are simply not equipped to keep children safe and learning with the increasing number of 90 and 100 degree days we are now experiencing due to climate change. Our coalition letter outlines common sense steps the Department of Education can take right now to move the needle on this issue, which is particularly pressing in schools serving communities of color. All students deserve access to healthy and climate-resilient classrooms,” said Jonathan Klein, co-founder and CEO of UndauntedK12.

The coalition’s recommendations include:

  1. Publish guidance on school heat readiness, heat planning best practices, model programs and artifacts, and strategies to build resilience (such as nature-based solutions) in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NIHHIS, and subject-area expert partners.
  2. Join the Extreme Heat Interagency Working Group led by the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS).
  3. Use ED’s platform to encourage states to direct funding resources for schools to implement targeted heat mitigation and increase awareness of existing funds (i.e. from the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) that can be leveraged for heat resilience. Further Ed and the IRS should work together to understand the financing gap between tax credits coverage and true cost for HVAC upgrades in America’s schools.
  4. Direct research and development funding through the National Center for Educational Statistics and Institute for Education Sciences toward establishing regionally-relevant indoor temperature standards for schools to guide decision making based on rigorous assessments of impacts on children’s health and learning.
  5. Adapt existing federal mapping tools, like the NCES’ American Community Survey Education Tabulation Maps and NIHHIS’ Extreme Heat Vulnerability Mapping Tool, to provide school district-relevant information on heat and other climate hazards. As an example, NCES just did a School Pulse Panel on school infrastructure and could in future iterations collect data on HVAC coverage and capacity to complete upgrades.
  6. Evaluate existing priorities and regulatory authority to identify ways that ED can incorporate heat readiness into programs and gaps that would require new statutory authority.

The Federation of American Scientists and UndauntedK12 and our partner organizations welcome the opportunity to meet with the Department of Education to discuss these recommendations and to provide support in developing much needed guidance as we enter another season of unprecedented heat. 


About UndauntedK12

UndauntedK12 is a nonprofit organization with a mission to support America’s K-12 public schools to make an equitable transition to zero carbon emissions while preparing youth to build a sustainable future in a rapidly changing climate.

About Federation of American Scientists

FAS envisions a world where cutting-edge science, technology, ideas and talent are deployed to solve the biggest challenges of our time. We embed science, technology, innovation, and experience into government and public discourse in order to build a healthy, safe, prosperous and equitable society.