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Framework to Advance Jobs, Schools & our Environment

January 30, 2013 (San Diego)--To initiate implementation discussions about Proposition 39 passed by the voters, Senate Appropriations Chair Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) convened the Subcommittee on Fiscal Oversight and Bonded Indebtedness in San Diego on Friday, January 25, Joining Senator De León on the dais were Senate Appropriations Committee member Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) and San Diego representatives Senator Marty Block, and Assembly members Toni Atkins and Ben Hueso. Panelists from education, labor, business and environmental organizations outlined pitfalls to avoid when spending the more than $2 billion in energy efficiency funds generated by the initiative.

“Hearing from experts and community members has been a great learning process about the needs of our communities,” said Senator De León. “I look forward to several more hearings we have planned around the state to seek input from stakeholders and to working on passing Senate Bill 39 so we can get Californians back to work, save energy and improve conditions for our schoolchildren.”

Senator De León has introduced Senate Bill 39, which will award energy efficiency upgrade grants to the most economically disadvantaged school communities in need of modernization. These grants will maximize job creation; create long-term energy cost savings for schools and put money back in classrooms; shrink our carbon footprint and reduce pollution creating cleaner air for our children; create accountability and transparency to ensure we invest in line with the voters' will; and minimize bureaucracy so the public experiences maximum value in real projects. To meet these goals, Senator De León is meeting with stakeholders around the state to solidify SB 39, to give the voters what they asked for – by a 20 point margin: jobs and greater energy savings.

At the hearing, Stan Dobbs, Chief Financial Officer of the San Diego Unified School District, shared their total utilities cost for 2011-2012 was $17.4 Million. The gas and electric service alone was $13 Million.  By retrofitting schools in the district, it is estimated the energy savings could be around 25%, generating an additional $3.25 Million that could support teachers and efficient district operations that have been especially hard hit by cuts in recent years.

Tom Lemmon, Business Manager for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO focused on the California comeback, “The public wants to see the initiative money go towards creating badly needed jobs for the unemployed. The construction trades have been hit the hardest, and retrofitting California's public schools will be a mini-stimulus package potentially creating 66,000 good jobs and apprenticeship opportunities for well-trained workers in California that can’t be outsourced.

Mary Luévano with Global Green cited their study, Healthier, Wealthier, Wiser: A Report on National Green Schools, which compiled several studies, including data from the United States Green Building Council which reports that green schools on average save $100,000 per year – enough to hire 2 new teachers, buy 500 new computers, or purchase 5000 new textbooks. Researchers have also found that students in old buildings scored 5-7 percentage points lower than students in new buildings and that classroom noise, lighting and temperature improvements can lead to a 36-point increase in California Academic Performance Index scores.

Panelists included Richard Barrera, School Board Member, San Diego Unified School District; Stan Dobbs, Chief Financial Officer for San Diego Unified School District; Phil Stover, Deputy Superintendent of Business, San Diego Unified School District; and Sean Hulen, United States Green Building Council Representative & Vice President, Balfour Beatty Construction, who focused on accountability mechanisms for school construction programs, current funding and programs, and the auditing process, oversight and accountability necessary for success. Jennifer Badgely, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 569; and Peter Miller, Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council focused on job creation and how we should measure fiscal outcomes and benefits.

The Center for the Next Generation, released a white paper that has provided a foundation for SB 39 implementation. Findings from the paper include:

  • California’s school system is the largest in the country.  One in every eight students in the K-12 system nationwide goes to school in California.
  • Our 10,569 public schools spend about $700 million per year on energy, which is as much as they spend on all books and supplies.
  • 73 percent of CA schools are more than 25 years old. 
  • Retrofitting California’s public schools would save at least 30 percent in energy costs per school – that’s $230 million across the entire California system.
  • Every school retrofit project creates approximately 20 jobs per million dollars of investment, many of these jobs in our hard-hit construction sector.  Investing $550 million per year from Proposition 39 would result in 11,000 jobs associated with the retrofit projects, and would free up resources for schools to retain or add teachers and staff as well.
  • Retrofitting school ventilation systems also improves indoor air quality, which increases student performance by providing a healthy learning environment for our kids.  Asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism today, resulting in $30 million in lost revenues to schools.  Investing in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, which make up more than 65 percent of all school energy costs, will save energy dollars and keep kids healthy and learning.

After a series of Senate Select Committee on Energy Efficiency stakeholder meetings around the state, Senator De León teamed up with Tom Steyer and former Secretary of State George Shultz as co-chairs of Proposition 39 to close a $1 billion tax loophole to restore fairness to California’s corporate tax system. Created in a last-minute, closed-door budget deal in 2009, the loophole gave out-of-state corporations an unfair tax advantage over California.

For the first five years, Prop. 39 will dedicate half of the revenues recovered to job-creating energy efficiency and clean energy programs implemented by legislation. The other half of the revenues, an anticipated 500 million dollars a year will go to schools – helping to restore vital funding to schools devastated by years of cuts. After five years, all of the revenues will go directly to the General Fund, a permanent investment in our state’s future.

More information and research can be found at  

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