Last week, CWC and our partners spoke at a State Capitol briefing hosted by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia about challenges and opportunities for California schools impacted by unsafe drinking water. Legislative staff, state agency staff, and other policymakers attended the briefing, which we co-sponsored along with our partners at Rural Community Assistance Corporation, Pueblo Unido CDC, Committee for a Better Arvin, and UC Nutrition Policy Institute. Assemblymember Garcia introduced the event and talked about his priority bill, AB 2124, which seeks to address school drinking water challenges. Just before our briefing began, AB 2124 passed unanimously (66-0) off the Assembly Floor, which gave us momentum and enthusiasm moving into the briefing.
Jenny Rempel, CWC's Strategic Communications Coordinator and principal author of EJCW and CWC's recent report, "Are We Providing our School Kids Safe Drinking Water?" moderated the panel and discussed the findings and main policy recommendations from the report. Sergio Carranza of Pueblo Unido CDC and Julia Helmreich of Rural Community Assistance Corporation spoke about the benefits of the Agua4All program in providing interim drinking water benefits to schools and communities. Joaquin Duran, who is an Arvin Union School District parent and a Committee for a Better Arvin member, spoke about his work alongside community members in Arvin to ensure students and ultimately all Arvin residents have clean water to drink. Joaquin spoke passionately about the stress of sending his student to a school with arsenic-contaminated water and his recent relief in knowing that his son at Haven Drive Elementary School now has access to safe drinking water through new Agua4All fountains. Lastly, Christina Hecht, Senior Policy Advisor at the UC Nutrition Policy Institute, provided startling statistics about the number of students that are underhydrated at school. She emphasized the importance of effective access to safe drinking water in school.
We were grateful to have presentations from Assemblymember Garcia and each of the expert panelists, especially as we head into the end of the budget negotiations and attempt to address safe water in schools. CWC will continue working with Assemblymember Garcia's office to ensure his bill, AB 2124, will adequately address the problem of unsafe drinking water in schools. We are also working to ensure that the Budget Conference Committee and the Governor's Office make safe drinking water a priority in the 2016-17 California Budget. Stay tuned for more updates!