Getting the ball rolling on Prop 39

In November of 2012 California voters approved Proposition 39. The law is designed to close a tax loophole that gave corporations a tax break for moving their jobs and investments to other states. Prop 39 fixed this problem by requiring multi-state companies to pay taxes based on their sales in California, and is predicted to generate an estimated $2.5 billion in revenue over a five-year period beginning in fiscal year 2013-2014. The majority of the revenue is designated to go to the California Clean Energy Jobs Act, a program created to fund K-12 school and community college energy efficiency improvement and expand clean energy generation. Money is also allocated to the State Energy Conservation Assistance Account Education Sub Account to leverage, expand, and extend the Prop 39 funds beyond the first five years of the program, and to a competitive grant program for workforce training programs preparing disadvantaged youth or veterans for employment through job training in energy efficiency and clean energy.

Senate Bill 73, signed in June of 2013, specifies the details of how the grant funds will be allocated to California's K-12 schools and community colleges and includes a number of requirements to ensure funds deliver the expected energy efficiency and cost savings. Eligible local educational agencies (LEAs), which include county offices of education, school districts, charter schools and state special schools, can request funding by submitting an energy expenditure plan application to the California Energy Commission. The Commission approves plans and works with the California Department of Education, which subsequently distributes funds after plans have been approved.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today that LEAs will soon receive about $8.4 million in the third round of Proposition 39 planning funds. In the first two rounds of funding LEAs received approximately $145 million to begin assessing needs and planning projects.

"Prop 39 is generating some much-needed support for modern school facilities and healthy environments for young Californians," Torlakson said. "These projects bring together job creation, environmental protection, cost savings, and learning opportunities."

The learning opportunities Torlakson references above are not guaranteed, however. Earth Day Network is currently pursuing funding to collaborate with the California public school system and drive home this educational aspect of Prop 39. Energy efficiency and retrofitting projects can provide meaningful hands-on learning opportunities for the students of California. Ensuring that students are cognizant of the improvements being made to their schools will extend the impact of Prop 39 beyond monetary savings.  Given the dialogue and opportunity to engage in these green projects, students will hopefully be inspired to pursue clean energy learning and careers. 

Earth Day Network commends California for its exemplary action in making its schools more energy efficient, and looks forward to seeing progressive collaboration between schools districts and the clean energy sector. 

Author: Ben Criswell, EDN Intern