"I’m here because of you, by the way. I’m here because of all of our young leaders who are here. It is you who has motivated the work that we are doing that is demonstrated by these beautiful yellow school buses," Harris began her speech. "And so I’m — I’m just so happy to be with all of you."
Harris asked those in attendance, "So here’s the thing: Who doesn’t love a yellow school bus, right? Can you raise your hand if you love a yellow school bus, right?"
"Just — there’s something about the — and — and most of us, many of us went to school on the yellow school bus, right? And it’s part of — it’s part of our — our experience growing up," she added. "It’s part of, you know, a nostalgia and a memory of — of the excitement and joy of going to school to be with your favorite teacher, to be with your best friends, and to learn."
Harris declared, "And today, 95% of our school buses are fueled with diesel fuel, which contributes to very serious conditions that are about health and about the ability to learn."
Harris said, "So, when I think about what the experience should be for our children of going to school on the school bus, I think about the fact that it should be about maximizing that experience for them, understanding that this bus symbolizes so much about our collective investment in our future. Because, of course, it is about our investment in our children, in their health, and in their education."
"And that’s the announcement today — $5 billion over the next five years — what we are doing today is the first of those billion dollars, $1 billion — through grant proposals from the 50 states — distributing to the 50 states an investment for their ability, starting the next school year — next school year — to roll these buses out to pick up our kids and take them to school," the vice president said.
She claimed that the $5 billion electric school bus transition "really does represent an intersection of all those points."
Harris remarked on climate change, "We owe it to our children to, right now, take these issues very seriously. The clock is ticking loudly."
"We are witnessing, around our country and around the world, the effects of extreme climate," she continued. "There is a direct correlation that, thankfully, as we progress as a nation, is not being debated, which is the correlation between all of that and human behaviors."
In May, Harris said the transition to electric buses was important because drivers could "hear the road."
"Now, I’ve spoken to a number of drivers, for example, who have recently switched to electric buses. And they stressed the importance of a quiet engine, which is much bigger than just you can have a conversation and hear each other; it helps the drivers hear the road, which, of course, helps keep our children safer."
Harris was hit with a reality check for her claim that diesel fuel affects children's "ability to learn." Reactions on Twitter reminded Vice President Harris that Democrats closing schools during the pandemic severely impacted students' ability to learn.
Republican New York House candidate Tom Zmich: "You mean getting them to School in places where Democrats aren't forcing them to do failed remote learning."
CEO Joe Colangelo: "Yes, gas-powered school buses seriously affect children's ability to learn by getting them to school."
CNN contributor Mary Katharine Ham: "In one of the more darkly humorous moments of the pandemic area, one of our Fairfax Co. school board members bragged about the fleet of electric school buses he secured. Kids hadn’t been on buses for 10 mos and wouldn’t be back on them for 3 more. But big pats on the back!"
Small government advocacy group FreedomWorks: "Seriously? It's unhinged Democrats who affect children's 'ability to learn.' It was liberals who kept kids out of school for well over a year."
Political writer Jordan Boyd: "You know what really hurts children's 'ability to learn?' Shutting down schools. That definitely contributes to 'very serious conditions' but I don't see anyone in the Biden admin banning teachers unions and punishing the health bureaucrats who sentenced kids to screens."
Test scores of American students plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many places closed schools for long periods of time.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress – known as the "nation's report card" – recently revealed that math scores had the largest decrease since the program began in 1969 and reading scores dropped to levels not seen since 1992.
A 2020 Democratic National Committee attack ad criticized former President Donald Trump for wanting to open schools.
An April 2021 report from Reason found that the top 10 states with the most schools open for in-person instruction were all red states. At the same time, the worst states for reopening schools were all blue states.