Two for one

Jeff vonKaenel

When Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he wants to do something, people listen. So when he recently talked about linking California high-school drop-out rates with green education and job training at the Coalition for Clean Air’s A Toast to Clearing the Air event, I paid attention.

After all, few legislators have done as much as Steinberg when it comes to improving our quality of life, in any number of areas.

For instance, he co-authored the mental-health initiative Proposition 63 in 2004, which imposes a 1 percent income tax on those whose personal incomes exceed $1 million annually. Its passage by voters provided the California Department of Mental Health with increased funding for personnel and other resources to support county mental-health programs across the state.

Then there’s Steinberg’s Senate Bill 375, the first law aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions through land-use planning and curbing urban sprawl. It aims to provide incentives for creating walkable, sustainable communities as well as encourage alternative-transportation development.

And who can forget the great California budget impasse that occurred just two months ago? Steinberg said he would make a budget happen, and while the state watched with bated breath, he did just that.

And now, with one out of five kids not graduating from high school, Steinberg has written S.B. 675—the Clean Technology and Renewable Energy Job Training, Career Education and Dropout Prevention Act—creating a Green Jobs/Career Tech Education Fund, which will help kids not only graduate from high school, but prepare them for successful green-technology careers.

The bill provides $5 billion through the Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research Fund to be used toward investment in “career technical education that delivers the skills and knowledge necessary for successful employment in clean technology, renewable energy or energy efficiency.” That includes providing facilities and equipment to schools and businesses as well. The bill mandates that 20 percent of the funding be spent in disadvantaged communities.

Californians are behind the bill, too. A recent poll by the national organization Green for All found that 80 percent of Californians feel it’s important to invest in green-collar jobs, and 75 percent support green training in middle and high schools as well as junior colleges.

So the next time you look at a playground, don’t think about the chance that only one in five of those kids will graduate from high school. Instead, think that because of Steinberg’s efforts, maybe one day those kids won’t just graduate from high school, they’ll train for green-technology careers that will support their families, the economy and ultimately, the planet.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.