This school turned green energy into higher teacher salaries

A school in Arkansas has managed to simultaneously tackle two pressing issues: low teacher pay and global warming.

For years, Batesville High School struggled to make ends meet. Part of the problem was shelling out $600,000 annually for utilities. As a result, the school struggled to maintain competitive wages. Many teachers left.

In 2017, Batesville consulted the energy efficiency company Entegrity to see what could be done about the astronomical power costs. Entegrity suggested switching to solar and upgrading to energy-efficient lights, heating, and cooling systems across the district – five schools in total.

So they did. Batesville High installed 1,400 solar panels while the other schools modernized their facilities. According to Entegrity’s audit, the school district is on course to save at least $2.4 million over 20 years.

Batesville superintendent Michael Hester knew exactly where to re-invest the savings. “Let’s use that money to start pumping up teachers’ salaries,” he said. “It’s the way we’re going to attract and retain staff. And it’s the way we’re going to attract and retain students in this day and age of school choice.”

The results have been astonishing. In just three years, the district turned a $250,000 budget deficit into a $1.8 million surplus, saving 1.6 million kilowatts along the way.

The extra money contributed to pay rises between $2,000 and $3,000 per educator – “in the top quartile in the state,” says Hester.

According to Entegrity, if every public school in the U.S. used 100% solar power, it would result in emissions reductions equivalent to closing 18 coal-fired power plants.