Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber (D-San Diego) has introduced legislation, AB 2120, that would allow county offices of education and community college districts to receive intervener compensation when participating in a proceeding before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
Currently when participating in negotiations with the CPUC, entities representing consumers or subscribers of any electrical, gas, telephone, or water corporation, also known as interveners, may be compensated for reasonable fees and costs of participation in a proceeding. However, school districts are not eligible to receive intervener compensation related to CPUC proceedings.
“Despite making investments in renewable and energy efficiency measures to lower energy usage, school districts throughout San Diego County suffered significant energy rate increases totaling over $30 million over the last year,” Weber said. “These schools need to keep the lights on without taking money out of the classroom, so they need to participate in rate proceedings at the CPUC. We also need to make sure that this participation – which can be extremely expensive – doesn’t set them even further back.”
“Our students and schools must not unduly pay the price of high energy costs,” stated Senator Hueso. “During the 2014-15 school year, San Diego schools saw their electric bills go up an average of 39%. This has consumed funding meant to educate our students, not pay excessively high electric bills. I look forward to a productive hearing and hope that the utilities honor their commitment to work with schools to bring the costs down.”
“San Diego County public schools could have instead used that $30 million to hire 600 new teachers, buy 120,000 netbooks for students, or fill school libraries and classrooms with 1.5 million new books,” said County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Randy Ward. “Our schools – and our students – can’t afford to cannibalize instructional budgets to cover operational costs.”
Having the ability to receive compensation for the work that it takes to compile testimony, commission studies, coordinate the travel and time for advocates and witnesses, and other resources for a proceeding, makes participation much more realistic for a representative of a school. By allowing county offices of education to recoup costs through intervener compensation, monies can then be better used to fund vital programs.
“Public K-12 schools are limited by the budget given to them by the state. We need to make it as feasible as possible for schools to participate in these proceedings,” explained Assemblymember Weber.
Weber also co-authored a letter with several other Democratic members of the San Diego delegation, including Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, Senator Ben Hueso and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzales. The correspondence expresses their concern about skyrocketing energy costs in San Diego region schools, and encourages San Diego Gas and Electric to make good on public commitments to work to mitigate the jump in energy rates experienced by local school districts.
Weber said local educational districts are severely limited in their ability to absorb the rising energy costs.
“In short, the schools have the money we give them,” Weber said. “They can’t levy a tax, so the money spent on these huge energy bills will likely come from the classroom. Though the conversations being had are encouraging, it is important to make sure that an agreement is reached that works for San Diego schools.”