Keeping kids safe is always a priory for any parent. That goes almost double when modes of transportation are involved, and when the school gets back in full swing and parents won’t be there to keep an eye on kiddos all the time. So it’s no wonder that local mom-of-two and “TODAY” show correspondent (oh, and former first-daughter, of course) Jenna Bush Hager is vocally passionate about school bus safety. And, that’s why she’s partnered once again with the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) to help spread awareness about a great cause that’s doing amazing work with children, the environment, and our classrooms.
We recently caught up with the busy mama–she’s also in the midst of promoting her soon-to-be released new book (October 4), co-authored with her twin sister Barbara Pierce Bush, Sisters First, which she says is “not prescriptive, it’s not self-help in any way, it’s just personal essays from our lives with the theme that we’ve had each other and how wonderful and enriching that’s made our lives”–at an intimate brunch in Tribeca where she illuminated the room on why parents everywhere should be aware of what propane school buses are doing to help the environment (among the health and safety advantages of propane buses is that they are quieter than diesel and they reduce exposure to diesel exhaust, which the World Health Organization classifies as a carcinogen) and the education landscape in this country.
In addition to partnering with Jenna Bush Hager, PERC is also joining forces with AdoptAClassroom.org to aid school districts that have shown a commitment to a sustainable fuel that also saves districts money that can be put back into the classroom to be used to better students’ learning environments and atmospheres. This school year nearly 790,000 students will be riding school buses powered by propane rather than gasoline or diesel fuel (school districts in 47 states now have propane school buses). Not only are the propane buses better for our environment, they’re more cost effective, and they’re quieter (which means they’re safer for children).
“First of all, I didn’t know about propane buses until I started working with PERC, and I realized how many of my friends—moms and educators alike—were in the same department as me. The fact that there are these propane buses out there in large numbers for our kids, as a mom, as an educator, that’s what I care about,” Bush Hager, a former teacher, says. “They’re quitter, which means they’re safer and kids are getting to school better-prepared and ready to learn.”
In addition to raising awareness about the benefits of propane buses, Bush Hager also emphasized that school bus safety has to start at home. “I think, for New York parents out there, the first thing is to talk about it,” she says. “A lot of rituals and routines seem obvious to us, like walk, don’t run to the bus, look both ways, sit firmly with you bottom—I know, that sounds like such a teacher word—but flat on the seat instead of on a backpack or on your knees, don’t stand up, talk quietly—all of these things sound so obvious to us. As a teacher, I know that our kids can meet our expectations and blow them out of the water, but we need to let them know what those expectations are.”
To her point of PERC’s impact on classroom funds: PERC has donated more than $75,000 through education non-profit AdoptAClassroom.org in three years to teachers in recognition of their district’s adoption of propane buses, so an investment in propane positively impacts the entire school system, especially because AdoptAClassroom.org estimates that the average teacher spends $500 out-of-pocket on classroom expenses.
“[Propane buses] are also saving money so they money can go back into the classroom,” Bush Hager notes. “As a teacher and a mom, that’s hugely important. And they’re better for our environment. The fact that I didn’t know about them, and now I do, I’m happy to partner with them.”