Philadelphia City Council passes Gilmore Richardson, Gauthier resolution urging state legislature to pass Fiedler’s Solar for Schools bill

PHILADELPHIA, April 18 – On Thursday, Philadelphia City Council unanimously approved a resolution urging the state legislature to pass Solar for Schools, a bill introduced by state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila.

Solar for Schools would create a grant program using a combination of state money and federal Inflation Reduction Act funds to help Pennsylvania public schools install solar panels. The bill is touted by education, labor, environmental, and faith-based organizations thanks to its potential to save schools money on high energy costs, create union jobs, and boost Pennsylvania’s production of renewable energy.

“I was thrilled to introduce a resolution in City Council calling on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to adopt state Representative Elizabeth Fielder’s Solar for Schools Act,” said Council Majority Leader Katherine Gilmore Richardson, At-Large. “Not only is this legislation a win for the education and environmental communities, but it would be a victory for skilled labor as well. We have a unique opportunity to provide Pennsylvanians, especially our young people, with a pathway to a family sustaining and supporting career opportunity. I am hopeful that the Pennsylvania Senate will pass this legislation and help us achieve these goals and much more.”

Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), chair of City Council's Committee on the Environment, said: "Today, City Council adopted a resolution I introduced with Councilmember Gilmore Richardson calling on the General Assembly to enact Representative Elizabeth Fiedler's Solar for Schools Act. We need to take advantage of opportunities like this one that uplift our communities and protect the environment at the same time. Adopting Solar for Schools would save schools money, create family sustaining jobs, and increase the production of renewable energy in Pennsylvania. I thank Representative Fiedler for her leadership on this issue!"

“Today’s vote signifies a real commitment from elected representatives to fight for working people and for the environment -- from Philadelphia to Harrisburg,” Fiedler said. “I'm grateful to my friends in city hall for their support of Solar for Schools, and I look forward to making our vision for a better planet, better schools, and better jobs a reality!”

Fiedler was joined by councilmembers and advocates for a news conference preceding the vote. Speakers voiced their support for the resolution.

“Implementing solar energy systems in schools across the state will not only reduce our carbon footprint, but also create invaluable job opportunities for skilled workers,” said Elaine McGuire, business representative for IBEW Local 98.

“Solar for Schools is good for kids. It’s good for school staff. It’s good for our city. It’s good for our Commonwealth. And quite frankly, it can be a model for a national move to really tackle some of the serious challenges we face,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan. “This is exactly what our national union, the AFT, means when we talk about Real Solutions for Kids.”

“Installing solar panels at schools will create new career opportunities for Philadelphia public school grads, have educational value for current students through curriculum enhancements, and connect students to real action for climate change all while creating jobs for their futures,” said Katie Bartolotta, vice president of policy and strategic partnerships for the Philadelphia Energy Authority.

Principal Dan Peou of Furness High School attended news press conference with a 12th grade student. With officials from the School District of Philadelphia and Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration, Fiedler recently toured the school’s roof to explore a potential location for solar panels.

“This investment would greatly benefit the School District of Philadelphia,” said Peou. “Solar for Schools would give schools like mine the opportunity to save valuable resources and reduce some of the burden of historic underfunding.”

“We believe schools are part of the solution when it comes to protecting a healthy environment and enhancing communities,” said Cinthia Ibarra Organizer, climate works organizer with the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter. “Every school can benefit from the additional financial resources that are freed up by energy savings from adopting solar power. Schools, students, the environment, the workforce, and communities all benefit from Solar for Schools.”

“All schools should have access to clean, affordable energy. With significant federal incentives available and increasing electricity rates, there's never been a more pressing time for schools to take action on clean energy,” said Shannon Crooker, renewable energy advocate for Generation180. “We commend Representative Fiedler’s tireless work to make solar energy more accessible to schools in Philadelphia and across the Commonwealth so schools -- and our taxpayers -- can start saving money today.”

Bartolotta, McGuire, Crooker, Fiedler, and Elowyn Corby, Mid-Atlantic regional director for Vote Solar, provided public comment during Thursday’s council meeting in support of the resolution.

Solar for Schools passed in the state House with strong bipartisan support in June and now awaits a vote in the state Senate. The bill was recently included in an 11-bill package introduced by the PA House Blue-Green Caucus, chaired by Fiedler, which has a stated mission of advancing legislation uniting labor and environmental interests.

“The package of bills has the support of a broad-based coalition of legislators, environmental advocates, and labor. It represents a step forward in strengthening the relationships between the environmental advocates and our brothers and sisters in the labor movement,” said Molly Parzen, executive director, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania. “And Solar for Schools shows that protecting our environment and building economic prosperity for Pennsylvania families go hand in hand.”