What San Diego's State Legislators Did On Education This Session
UPDATE: 10 a.m., June 5, 2017
It was live or die for bills in the state legislature last week. Friday was the deadline for them to pass in the assembly or senate. Our local representatives pushed through about a dozen education-related bills.
AB 746: Requiring Lead Testing In Schools
The bill by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, D-San Diego, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, and Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Heights, would require schools to test their water for lead. It is currently voluntary.
The bill comes as schools across the state are testing their water under an initiative that temporarily made the water sampling free. In San Diego County, the tests detected elevated lead levels in the water at La Mirada Elementary School in San Ysidro; Emerson Elementary School in Southcrest; and Birney Elementary School in University Heights.
Additional testing has found lead below the Environmental Protection Agency cutoff for dangerous levels.
The bill now moves to the California State Senate.
AB 1321: Ensuring Money For Low-Income Kids Goes To Low-Income Kids
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, passed a bill through the assembly aimed to help taxpayers track where state dollars for low-income students are flowing.
Under a new state funding model, schools with a high percentage of low-income children are supposed to receive more money. But current reporting only provides information on what districts spend per student, not schools. By requiring districts to disclose per-pupil spending at the school level, the thinking is taxpayers and lawmakers can better follow the money and measure its impacts.
The bill comes after a coalition nonprofits in Los Angeles charged the district there was not sending the extra money to its high-need elementary schools. Education Trust-West, an education advocacy group, found as many as six other districts were shortchanging schools.
AB 1435: The College Athlete Protection Act
Also headed to the Senate is Gonzalez-Fletcher's College Athlete Protect Act. The bill would establish a commission to work with schools and athletic associations to increase oversight of university athletic programs.
It aims to protect student athletes from preventable injuries and fraudulent business practices. The commission would play an investigatory role and have subpoena powers. It would also regularly survey athletes and issue guidelines.
AB 1220: More Time For Teachers To Ripen, Districts To Toss Out Bad Apples
Under the California Education Code, districts can let go any teacher who is new to their district for no cause within two years of hire. The idea is to give teachers time to get their bearings in the classroom and prove their worthy of tenure, and districts time to determine if the teacher is a good fit.
Weber's bill would extend that probationary period to three years. Initially she proposed extending it up to five years.
Teacher unions oppose the bill, saying it degrades due process. Teachers are not guaranteed an appeal or hearing if fired.
Supporters of the bill say it would help teachers by setting requirements for professional development and giving them another year to prove themselves.
AB 214: Addressing Student Hunger
Weber and Gonzalez-Fletcher teamed up on a bill with a dozen other lawmakers aimed at helping more college students sign up for anti-hunger programs. Federal law precludes some full-time students from qualifying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps or CalFresh here in California.
This bill seeks to match up language in related state and federal rules to eliminate confusion, potentially help more students qualify for assistance, and notify students if they are eligible.
AB 568: Maternity Leave For School Employees
The Gonzalez-Fletcher bill requires that school districts, community colleges and charter schools provide six weeks paid leave for pregnancy, miscarriage and childbirth for certificated and academic employees.
SB 329: Tracking And Improving Oral Health
This bill by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Sen. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, aims to improve access to dental care for young children by requiring parents to opt out, rather than opt in, for no-cost oral health exams on school campuses. It also requires schools send information to the state on tooth decay and the number of children without access to dental care.
Now it goes to the Assembly for approval.
AB 233: Cultural And Religious Considerations In School Dress Codes
Assembly freshman Todd Gloria passed a bill to ensure "religious, ceremonial or cultural adornments" are allowed at school graduation ceremonies. Gloria started his political career representing the diverse residents of San Diego's City Heights neighborhood, including Muslim East Africans.
AB 841: No Food Advertising On Campus
This Weber bill would prohibit any new corporate food advertising on school campuses and materials. Things like scoreboards that currently have advertising are grandfathered in. It would also prevent schools from participating in food-based incentive programs for academic achievement and would encourage schools to stop using food-based fundraisers.
Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, co-authored the bill. It is headed to the Senate next.
AB 81: More Information For Parents Of English-Language Learners
A bill by Gonzalez-Fletcher would require that schools explicitly notify parents if their English-language learner students are at risk of not being reclassified, meaning they could remain in ELL programs and struggle to graduate. It also would require schools to lay out for the parents how they plan to help the student improve his or her status.
AB 1106: Childcare Help For Military Families
The Weber bill would not count military families' housing allowance, if it is on the low end for the housing market in their area, in determining whether they are eligible for childcare subsidies.
AB 26: Training For Home-Based Childcare Providers
Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, is not a San Diego representative, but she passed a bill related to an effort KPBS recently covered: training and accountability for home-based childcare providers. Unlike preschools which must satisfy certain child development goals, such providers only need basic health and safety licensing.
United Way of San Diego County, YMCA and San Diego County Office of Education have been providing home-based childcare providers with resources to operate more like preschools. Caballero's bill headed to the Senate would develop similar pilot programs in Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties.