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Another View: Proposition 39 is working in California’s schools

Proposition 39 co-chairman Tom Steyer, at podium, addresses students last October at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles, which was approved for $1.8 million in Prop. 39 funds for energy projects.
Proposition 39 co-chairman Tom Steyer, at podium, addresses students last October at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles, which was approved for $1.8 million in Prop. 39 funds for energy projects. Associated Press file

As kids and parents hear school bells ring this fall, they’ll notice some big changes in California’s classrooms: air conditioning that works; new lighting that saves energy; windows and shades that help keep classrooms warm in the winter and cool in the summer; and solar panels on school facilities.

All of this was made possible by California voters, who approved Proposition 39 in 2012. The measure closed a tax loophole that existed in no other state 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.

While some, including The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board, have questioned its results so far (“Trust is in short supply as promises of Prop. 39 fall flat,” Aug. 18), $2.35 billion in new funding has been recaptured in less than three years and is being redirected to California schools.

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 energy bills.

Students at three Grass Valley schools will be warmer this winter due to modified heating, ventilation and cooling systems. At Helen Wilcox Elementary School in Oroville, students have new LED lighting in 35 classrooms, which will save the school $15,000 annually. At Temperance-Kutner Elementary School in Fresno, students will notice new energy-efficient lighting in the multipurpose room, office, library and classrooms.

While nearly 100 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 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. Taxpayers expect us to invest wisely, and that is exactly what is happening.

There is much more to do in the 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.

Andrew McAllister is a member of the California Energy Commission.

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