Prop 39: Helping Students and Improving Schools

By California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister

As kids – and parents – prepare for school bells to ring again this fall, they’ll notice some big changes in California’s classrooms: air conditioning systems that work; new lighting systems that save energy; windows and shades that help keep classrooms warm in the winter and cool in the summer and solar panels on school facilities.

Parents dropping kids off at Temperance-Kutner Elementary School in Fresno will notice new energy-efficient lighting in the multi-purpose room, office, library and classrooms. Students returning to Costa Mesa High School in Orange County will see solar panels installed over the athletic center parking lot and the outdoor lunch seating area. At Helen Wilcox Elementary School in Oroville, students returned to school this week to find all 35 classrooms glowing with new LED lighting – upgrades that will save the school $15,000 annually in energy costs.

All of this was made possible by California voters, who approved Proposition 39 at the end of 2012. With this vote, Californians chose to close a tax loophole that existed in no other state in the nation and had rewarded businesses for moving jobs out of state. Now those tax dollars are being invested in our children, our schools and our environment. In fact, in less than three years, $2.35 billion in new funding already has been recaptured and is being prudently redirected to schools in districts from Los Angeles to Eureka.

For many of the schools, these are the first energy improvement projects in years. The upgrades will make it easier and safer for students to learn, and over time they will save school districts millions of dollars on their energy bills. These are savings that can be reinvested in the things that matter most – improving learning, boosting academic performance and preparing our children for a bright future.

While nearly a hundred projects already have been completed at 38 schools, others will take additional time and planning. Proposition 39 is an eight-year program that allows schools the flexibility to accelerate current construction, or plan more complex projects that require more time and investment. These are projects that will provide benefits for decades to come, the sort of projects that demand careful planning and don’t get done overnight. Taxpayers expect us to invest wisely and that is exactly what is happening.

Some schools also are stretching dollars further by working with the California Conservation Corps to carefully study, plan and install the most cost-effective upgrades. The CCC’s Energy Corps audits school buildings for free, saving schools the cost of having a private firm do so. This partnership also provides job training for the next generation of California’s workforce.

There is much more to do in the months and years ahead, but because of Proposition 39 investments, thousands of California students this fall will be learning in safer, more comfortable and energy-efficient classrooms – the sort of environment that can lead to real light-bulb moments.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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