21st Century Schools Create Good Jobs and Healthy Learning Environments for Minnesota’s Students

Representatives from the BlueGreen Alliance, Education Minnesota, LIUNA, SEIU, Minnesota Conservation Federation, and SMWIA today said the American Jobs Act will create thousands of sorely-needed jobs and improve the educational environment for students.

September 21, 2011

ST. PAUL, MN (September 21, 2011) The American Jobs Act will create thousands of sorely-needed jobs and improve the educational environment for students by modernizing Minnesota’s public schools, according to representatives from the BlueGreen Alliance, Education Minnesota, the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Minnesota Conservation Federation, and the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association (SMWIA). The groups gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol today to call on Congress to pass the President’s nationwide jobs plan, which focuses on rebuilding infrastructure and modernizing public schools.

The American Jobs Act would allocate $30 billion to updating and modernizing 35,000 public schools and community colleges across America, which would bring $275 million to Minnesota for updating K-12 schools and would also allocate almost $88 million for modernizing the state’s community colleges. Such investments are expected to create 3,600 jobs in Minnesota.

“The American Jobs Act includes critical investments in modernizing and renovating our schools, and repairing our crumbling transportation systems, and it will create the jobs we need to maintain a competitive U.S. economy,” said Tarryl Clark, the National Co-Chair of the BlueGreen Alliance’s Jobs21! campaign. “People across the country all understand why this is important. Now we just need Congress to understand and pass the bill. It will get thousands of Minnesotans to work creating safer, healthier, more energy-efficient schools – schools that will be better for our students. And the bill will also create better roads, bridges, transit and other transportation systems for all of us.”

“Modernizing and greening our public schools will create a better learning environment for children and it will put people to work, said Jeanne Scarr, a teacher at Rice Lake Elementary School in the Centennial School District who serves as the President of the Centennial Education Association. “Minnesota is filled with great teachers and great students who all deserve great schools.”

“It is critical that Congress pass the American Jobs Act immediately. Modern, green schools are healthy schools for students and all school personnel, including teachers, custodians, clerical employees, paraprofessionals, and other school support staff,” said Carol Nieters, Executive Director of SEIU Local 284, which represents about 8,000 public school support employees in the state. “Every day our members keep schools running, and every day they see the need to invest in our schools.”

Minnesota’s construction industry has been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn. Since 2005, construction employment in Minnesota has dropped by approximately 50,000 jobs, according to the Department of Employment and Economic Development.

“The critical repairs and needed construction projects included in the American Jobs Act would put people back to work—whether construction workers, engineers, maintenance staff, boiler repairmen or electrical workers,” said Marty Strub, Business Manager for SWMIA Local 10. “This is exactly what we need to create jobs and build a cleaner, more efficient and more competitive 21st century economy.”

“Too many workers have been idle for too long, and the American Jobs Act will help get them off the bench and back to work doing the work Minnesota needs done,” said Josh Bassais, a field organizer for the Laborers’ District Council. “Investments in school renovation alone will create thousands of construction jobs in this state. Transportation infrastructure investments included in this bill will create many thousands more.”

High performance, green schools can use 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than other schools. On average, they can save $100,000 per year on operating costs — enough to hire at least one new teacher, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 new textbooks, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Less waste means a healthier environment, reduced dependence on foreign oil, and savings for taxpayers,” said Gary Botzek, Executive Director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation. “We need to do what’s right for our economy, our communities, our environment and our future by passing the American Jobs Act now.”

Jobs21! is a nationwide grassroots campaign for good jobs in the 21st century that is coordinated by the BlueGreen Alliance, a Minnesota-based, national partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations working to expand the number and quality of jobs in the green economy. Jobs21! works to create and maintain good jobs in emerging industries — energy efficiency, renewable energy, manufacturing, transportation and transit, recycling, green chemistry, broadband Internet and a smarter electrical grid.