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Capps Shares with Santa Barbara School District Officials the Benefits of American Jobs Act

Facilities Director Dave Hetyonk says the district's share of the $2.8 billion allotted to California would fund much-needed infrastructure projects

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and officials with the Santa Barbara Unified School District met at Adams Elementary School on Tuesday to discuss how the passing of the American Jobs Act would create jobs through repairs to school infrastructure.

Capps said the American Jobs Act, President Barack Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill, would dedicate $2.8 billion to school infrastructure and create 37,000 jobs statewide.

“We’re sending our most precious resources to receive their education in structures that are outmoded, many structures are moldy and paint is falling from the walls,” she said. “It’s not because (Director of Facilities) Dave Hetyonk doesn’t care; he cares so much about improving our schools. Let’s look at this as an opportunity to put these two challenges together — unemployed people and schools that are falling apart.”

The $2.8 billion allotted to California would be distributed at the local level based on the number of students in any given school district and eligibility issues, or factors such as the age of the facilities and the number of portables, according to district Superintendent Dr. David Cash.

As for what gets fixed first, he said, the majority of the Santa Barbara district’s priority list includes structural, electrical and system needs, such as repaving damaged asphalt.

“Should students be playing on asphalt that has inch-wide holes in it?” Cash said. “That’s a system issue at the top of the list.”

Hetyonk said that although the American Jobs Act would fund many short-term construction positions, those workers would provide a necessary stimulus for the local economy.

“If these jobs stimulate the economy, then things would regenerate and these people making the money in construction would spend money that would stay in the community and that would generate more projects to keep those jobs rolling,” he said.

Funding from the American Jobs Act would free up funds from Measures Q and R for projects that have gone unfunded, such as upgrading and modernizing certain classrooms, said Mark Ingalls, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s board president.

“Q and R funds have addressed the immediate needs that the SBSD priority list identified as projects that for instance were shovel-ready and green, so additional founding would free up Q and R funds for unfunded projects,” he said. 

But some people are skeptical because of the status of the economy despite the $787 billion stimulus bill approved in 2009.

“Do we know how bad it would have been if it wasn’t there?” Capps said. “Also, everyone needs to recognize how far off the cliff we were falling at that time. It did have impact. I know because of the teachers who are in the classrooms now who weren’t before.”

Obama proposed that the bulk of the plan would be paid for by tax changes that would limit itemized deductions, and provisions impacting oil and gas companies and hedge funds. Capps advocated closing some of the “loopholes and inequities we already know are in the tax structure.”

“The American people know by now that it is time for certain millionaires and billionaires to pay for a little bit more of their share into it,” she said. “We also know we are continuing to subsidize offshore oil companies who are drilling that make biggest profits in world. Those are changes we can put into place that are a matter of fairness.”

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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