San Diego Unified Calls on Pension Funds to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, August 25th 2016

The San Diego Unified School District’s (SDUSD) Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution on July 26th calling on the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (STRS) and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) to divest their investment portfolios of stocks in fossil fuel companies. Recognizing the threat of global warming, the resolution also supports last year’s state legislation, SB 185, which requires PERS and STRS to divest from coal stocks. Most of SDUSD’s employees belong to these huge retirement systems.

San Diego Unified School Board Members and Superintendent Cindy Marten at the July 26 meeting.

San Diego Unified School Board Members and Superintendent Cindy Marten at the July 26 meeting.

SanDiego350 and other proponents believe that San Diego Unified is the first school district in California to pass such a resolution, joining the California Federation of Teachers, the Unified Teachers of Los Angeles, and other organizations who have publicly called on CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest from fossil fuel companies. San Diego Unified serves more than 130,000 students in pre-school through grade 12, has over 13,000 employees (including nearly 6,000 teachers), and is the second largest school district in California.

The resolution is a sign of growing momentum for fossil fuel divestment locally – only a couple of months ago the UC San Diego Academic Senate passed a similar resolution urging the UC Regents to divest the University of California’s investment portfolio of stocks in fossil fuel companies. The resolution recognizes the threat of global warming and UCSD’s pioneering contribution to climate science. It also acknowledges the risk to the UC endowment and pension funds from the prospect of falling fossil fuel stocks. The UC system also made the decision to divest from coal and tar sands in 2015, and earlier this July, CalSTRS voted unanimously to move $2.5 billion in assets to a low-carbon index fund.

The move isn’t only about transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy to reduce carbon emissions – A report last year showed that PERS and STRS had lost $840M from coal stocks during the 2014-15 fiscal year, and $5.1B in fossil fuel stocks overall.
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