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Torlakson Urges Approval of American Jobs Act

Letter Head: Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education

October 10, 2011

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
U.S. House of Representatives
235 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Leader Pelosi:

In January 2011, during my first week as California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, I declared that a “state of financial emergency” exists in our schools. Severe budget cuts have had a major impact on our students, parents, teachers, school employees, and principals, leading to increases in class sizes and the loss of critical student support
services. It has also had a major negative impact on our state’s economy and our schools’ ability to prepare the next generation of workers.

That is why I am writing today to urge you to support the President’s American Jobs Act, which could provide $2.8 billion for desperately needed school construction modernization and $3.1 billion to save an estimated 37,300 education jobs here in California.

The American Jobs Act represents an opportunity to support our schools during this historic financial emergency which has resulted in $18 billion in state education cuts over the past three years. With the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Education Jobs funds coming to an end, and no state relief in sight, this proposal would bring almost $6 billion more in California tax dollars back to our state, protect California neighborhood schools from even more increases in class sizes, and the further loss of critical student support services.

The American Jobs Act also provides needed employment opportunities through the rebuilding and modernizing of our aging school buildings. To ensure our students have a quality learning environment and a top-notch education, we need modern and efficient schools.

The $2.8 billion for school construction can be used to renovate K-12 public school facilities in ways consistent with my recently released Schools of the Future report, and build or update science and computer labs neglected because of deep cuts to education funding in recent years. These funds may also be used for energy efficiency which could yield tens of
millions of dollars of energy bill savings that could be redirected to classroom instruction.

Importantly, the $2.8 billion would also create about 36,600 construction jobs, which could help address California’s terribly high unemployment rate and by boosting our state’s economic recovery.

Investing in needed school facilities represents an investment both in immediate job creation and our future workforce. Research has consistently shown that students’ academic performance increases when the schools they attend are clean, well maintained, and possess the instructional tools to support a 21st Century learning environment. Studies also show that student attendance rates increase when students know their school leaders and their communities are willing to invest in quality school facilities.

Despite recent state investments in school construction and modernization, approximately 30 percent of California school buildings are 50 years old or older. For example, the average age of the public school buildings in the Los Angeles Unified School District, even after more than 130 new schools were built and opened within the past decade, is still 41 years.

The need to renovate, repair, and upgrade our aging school buildings is critical to ensure all of our students have the opportunity to receive a first-class education and allow them to best compete in the global economy.

For these reasons, I ask you to join me in supporting the education elements of the American Jobs Act. California schools desperately need this kind of investment.

If you have any questions about this subject, you may reach me through Cathy McBride, Federal Policy Liaison, by phone at 916-319-0821 or by e-mail at cmcbride@cde.ca.gov [Note: the preceeding name, phone number, and e-mail address is no longer valid. Please contact Erika Webb-Hughes, Federal Policy Liason, by phone at 916-319-0650 or by e-mail at ehughes@cde.ca.gov.]

Sincerely,

Tom Torlakson

TT:ccc

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