Congresswoman Lois Capps hosted a press conference Tuesday at Adams Elementary School in Santa Barbara to advocate for the American Jobs Act that would increase employment opportunities and educational funding.
President Barack Obama proposed the legislation earlier this month to provide $25 billion nationwide — of which $3.6 billion would go directly to California — to modernize and renovate schools. The bill also includes tax cuts for small businesses, extensions to unemployment benefits, provisions to expand the workforce and counterbalances aimed at closing corporate tax loopholes to improve the economy without the need for additional federal spending.
According to Capps, the AJA would allow the government to simultaneously address the nation’s unemployment and educational redevelopment concerns.
“Let’s look at it as an opportunity; let’s put these two challenges together,” Capps said. “That’s what the president is now proposing, the American Jobs Act. He’s challenging me and my colleagues in Congress to roll up our sleeves and get back to rebuilding our outmoded schools.”
Up to 37,000 California construction workers—an industry facing an 18 percent unemployment rate —could return to work if the AJA passes. An estimated $24 million — approximately 16 percent of the $2.8 billion allocated for California’s school infrastructure projects — qualifies for the legislation’s funding, Capps said.
“This is not taking money, this is an investment,” Capps said. “This is an opportunity to put our resources to work. So that’s what we have, a win-win opportunity.”
Santa Barbara School District Superintendent David Cash said the proposal is integral to support the region’s cash-strapped system.
“I’ve looked at the facilities that we have in SB and it’s really clear that we’ve stretched all the dollars that we have had to the end,” Cash said. “And we simply don’t have the resources necessary to do what we need to do.”
The AJA would also provide funding to retain and rehire teachers and other educators at the early childhood, elementary and secondary school levels.
According to Cash, the act would improve the
long-term quality of education for younger generations.
“Anything that’s going to improve the lives of our nation’s most important resource, children, I’m in favor of,” Cash said. “So, I’m certain, are the elected educational representatives.”
Layne Wheeler, a member of the California Teacher’s Association and President of the Santa Barbara Teacher’s Association, said the AJA increases local school’s ability to prepare students for a competitive economy.
“This is going to provide much needed infusion of funds to secure teaching and other legally mandated jobs that are required to help our schools provide high quality education,” Wheeler said. “It will also provide funding for renovating antiquated schools and provide our students with facilities that they need to compete in the world economy today.”
Additionally, updates to classroom tools can increase student’s enthusiasm and efficiency, according to Wheeler.
“Classrooms now are using computers that are 5 and 10 years old,” Wheeler said. “We need modern facilities. Our kids know how to use iPads and iPhones, but they don’t have them in the classrooms to use.”