Under SB 39, Democrats said the Los Angeles Unified School District could cut its energy bills by 25 percent and put an extra $28 million a year back into classrooms that have been affected by budget cuts in recent years.
The bill is being backed by billionaire investor and philanthropist Tom Steyer, who financed the Proposition 39 campaign. He said much of the money would go to improving heating and cooling systems, as well as upgrading lights in public schools.
"The number one cause of absenteeism in the public schools of California is asthma," Steyer said. "We will have a big positive health effect for the students as a result of the way this program is going to be implemented."
Other lawmakers have ideas of their own for the Clean Energy Job Creation Fund.
Assemblyman Das Williams of Santa Barbara introduced AB 29 to help colleges and universities with energy efficiency retrofits and clean energy projects.
And Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley introduced AB 39, which she said will complement de Leon's bill. The governor could also propose his own use for the money in his new budget next year.
Steinberg said the brilliance of SB 39 is that it focuses on how the state can get the most for its money. The bill would require the Office of Public School Construction to distribute the grants to school districts on a competitive basis for energy efficiency upgrades.
"Not only do we improve the climate and create jobs and invest in the new economy in California, but the savings that will go from reducing energy costs in schools will go right back to the classroom to hire more teachers," Steinberg said.