Schools to receive energy-efficiency upgrade funding from Prop. 39


Principal Greg Thomas is pleading his case to lawmakers to give his campus some of the state's new energy retrofit money.

Seventy-three percent of California public schools are more than 25 years old and in need of the funding badly to upgrade or replace windows, inefficient lighting and old air-conditioning and heating systems.

"If we can look at energy-efficiency, then you're having savings year over year over year," said Thomas. "And then you will actually in the long run have more money available for those things you need."

The costs are staggering. More than 10,000 public schools in California together spend $700 million a year on energy. That's what they spend on all books and supplies.

Thanks to voters who overwhelmingly approved Proposition 39 last month, disadvantaged schools will now be able to pay for energy retrofits. Prop. 39 closes a tax loophole that mostly benefited out-of-state corporations.

It's a billion-dollar-a-year funding boost for the state. Half of it goes to the state's General Fund. The other half goes to the energy needs of schools, which could mean no more putty around the windowsill, or single-pane windows that make classrooms saunas in the summer and freezers in the winter.

Science teacher Hugh Hunter says those conditions hinder learning.

"As the kids go to classroom to classroom, the experience is the same situation," said Hunter. "And so after three or four hours of that, it's pretty hard for them to focus."

Lawmakers just introduced measures to get project monies out the door by next summer. Retrofitting is expected to cut energy costs at least 30 percent. After that when the upgrading is done, the full billion dollars goes to the state's General Fund.

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