School Climate & Safety

Calif. Energy Crisis Predicted To Sap Budgets

By Mark Stricherz — January 31, 2001 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Voicing growing dismay, California school officials said last week that the state’s power crisis will quickly drain districts’ pocketbooks.

The worsening electricity crunch is expected to last months and prove costly to consumers, experts say. In addition, some state school officials are worried that their local counterparts may be overlooking the problem’s magnitude.

State officials sounded one note of alarm after a seminar held last week in Sacramento by the California Department of Education to provide information about the crisis to Northern California districts. Tony Hesch, a field representative for the agency, said the 140 participants in attendance were surprisingly uninformed.

“There was an awful lot of disbelief from the audience,” Mr. Hesch said. “I think by the time it ended, there was a feeling that this was a situation that needed to be ended right now.”

California’s energy woes stem largely from a 1996 decision by the state to partially deregulate its market for electricity. Designed mainly to cut consumers’ electric bills, deregulation has instead translated this year and last into “rolling blackouts” and higher utility costs. (“California Schools Lose Power as Energy Crisis Deepens,” Jan. 24, 2001.)

Mr. Hesch fretted that those who missed the Jan. 23 event in Sacramento were likely to misread the energy crisis.

“There are still a lot of people who believe this is a manufactured crisis and not a distribution problem,” Mr. Hesch said. “The reality is, this problem has gotten worse significantly.”

To educate district officials, Mr. Hesch and others offered tips on how to conserve energy. Their suggestions included turning off lights when classrooms are not in use, consolidating activities during weekends and at night in one room, and devising a plan to cut energy costs.

Request for Exemption

A few days earlier, a California group representing district financial officers said the cost of the energy crunch would be “extraordinary.” The group had sent a survey by e-mail to the state’s 1,000 districts; 225 responded.

Kevin Gordon, the executive director of the California Association of School Business Officials, said districts would likely need an extra $150 million to $200 million this school year to cover mushrooming natural gas and electricity bills.

“That’s incredible,” Mr. Gordon said. “It’s just a very, very large utility bill.”

He said 40 percent of the districts that responded to the survey indicated that they had already run through their budget reserves for the school year.

“That means that either these are extraordinary bills or there are other costs eating up their reserves,” Mr. Gordon said. His group has petitioned the state legislature to pay for the expected higher costs.

As of late last week, California school officials seemed pessimistic about the prospects for quick relief.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin sent a letter Jan. 19 to the state Public Utilities Commission asking that schools be exempted from rolling electrical blackouts or energy rationing. But a spokesman for Ms. Eastin said there’s little hope.

A spokesman for the utilities commission said officials were still examining the request.

A version of this article appeared in the January 31, 2001 edition of Education Week as Calif. Energy Crisis Predicted To Sap Budgets

Events

Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Privacy & Security Webinar
K-12 Cybersecurity in the Real World: Lessons Learned & How to Protect Your School
Gain an expert understanding of how school districts can improve their cyber resilience and get ahead of cybersecurity challenges and threats.
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Trauma-Informed Schools 101: Best Practices & Key Benefits
Learn how to develop a coordinated plan of action for addressing student trauma and
fostering supportive, healthy environments.
Content provided by Crisis Prevention Institute

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety ‘Their Vote Matters’: Schools Provide Training to Students on Working the Polls
“We just want to make sure that our youth ... know that they’re important, their vote matters, their vote counts, they can get involved."
Jenny Roberts, The Morning Call
4 min read
Allen student Yovian Torres Gomez makes notes on his packet during a poll worker training Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, at Allen High School. Allen students will be working as clerks, handing out paper ballots and directing them where to go, when voting concludes Tuesday in the general election. Some will also be translating for voters.
Allen student Yovian Torres Gomez makes notes on his packet during a poll worker training Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, at Allen High School. Allen students will be working as clerks, handing out paper ballots and directing them where to go, when voting concludes Tuesday in the general election. Some will also be translating for voters.
Amy Shortell/The Morning Call via TNS
School Climate & Safety A Parkland Dad Pleads for Action on School Safety
A father whose daughter was killed in the 2018 mass shooting spoke at a summit the day after the gunman was sentenced.
3 min read
A women in a black t-shirt lifts small painted stones out of a cardboard box, placing them on the ground at a memorial covered in flowers in front of a large white masonry sign that says "Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School."
Suzanne Devine Clark, an elementary school art teacher, places painted stones at a memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2019, one year after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
School Climate & Safety A School Safety Challenge: Keeping Crowds Secure Under the Glare of Friday Night Lights
Districts aim to keep students and spectators safe during sporting events, which draw large crowds to a less predictable environment.
5 min read
A police officer stands between rows of caution tape outside of a white high school football stadium that is brightly lit against the night sky.
A Tulsa Police officer films the area outside of the McLain High School football stadium in Tulsa, Okla., after a shooting during a Sept. 30 football game.
Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP
School Climate & Safety What School Is Like for LGBTQ Students, By the Numbers
Here are survey statistics on harassment, support, and fears experienced by LGBTQ students during pandemic-era schooling.
4 min read
Image of a student with rainbow straps on their backpack.
iSTock/Getty