Union money will go into school retrofits in Oregon

The union-owned financial services company Ullico plans to invest up to $15 million in Oregon’s “Cool Schools” program of energy retrofits for public schools — according to statements Nov. 10 from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the office of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

The announcement comes after Gov. Kitzhaber met with AFT president Randi Weingarten in Washington, D.C. Weingarten serves on an AFL-CIO committee that is seeking to invest union pension funds in ways that put union members to work.

Cool Schools, one of Gov. Kitzhaber’s signature initiatives, passed the Oregon Legislature unanimously during the 2011 session.

Cool Schools provides access to financing for school districts to fix leaky roofs, upgrade inefficient lighting and heating, and make other improvements. The program pays interest on capital improvement loans that school districts can sign onto; the principal comes from an existing state fund. The idea is that the principal would be repaid through savings from lower energy costs.

Since being signed into law, 11 school districts have applied for or secured over $9.5 million for school retrofits, according to the governor’s office.

Under the program, the work is subject to the requirement to pay prevailing wage.

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