Senator Ben Hueso, County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Randolph Ward, Superintendent of Lemon Grove School District Ernest Anastos, and County Office of Education Assistant Superintendent of Business Lora Duzyk gathered for a press conference today to discuss Senate Bill 1041, which is aimed at protecting schools from paying high electricity bills.
"School funds should be used on textbooks, technology and innovative implementations which will improve our schools and will help educate our children," stated Senator Hueso. "Our schools are instead trying to pay their high electric bills to keep the light switches on in the classroom. Ultimately, the ones paying the price are our children. We must protect our schools from unfair rate increases and outrageous charges on their bills."
Senate Bill 1041 requires the state's energy utilities to develop and implement a rate for electric service specific to K-12 public schools. The intent is that it will reduce the amount of money public schools spend on electricity, thereby freeing resources for the education of children.
Currently schools are classified and charged under the same energy rate as industrial and commercial businesses. But schools are unique in that they use significantly less electricity over the summer months or after hours, and administrative and school sites are closed on weekends. SB 1041 would stop the energy rate increases for schools that don't reflect the true cost of providing electricity to schools.
"Public schools have fixed budgets with no way to charge fees or increase revenues to meet higher costs. Yet in one year, San Diego County schools saw their electricity bills rise an average 39 percent, while their electricity usage only rose about six percent," explained Assistant Superintendent Duzyk. "An expected bill of that magnitude could cripple a small school district."
In Lemon Grove School District, one of the 42 school districts in San Diego County, electricity costs rose over 34% in one year. This has resulted in a loss of almost $173,000 per year in funds to educate the district's 4,000 preschool-to-8th-grade students.
"In our school district $173,000 could have been used instead to purchase for students 1,570 textbooks, 625 Chromebooks, and professional development for over 500 teachers and classified staff," said Superintendent Anastos.
"Senator Hueso's SB 1041 would put an end to a string of consecutive rate increases that have forced schools to cannibalize instructional budgets to cover the cost of keeping the lights on," said Superintendent Ward. "Our schools don't want special treatment, just an appropriate resolution that takes into account a school's unique energy usage, fixed budget and duty of meeting the needs of the county's children."