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What’s next for California education? New laws and vetoes

Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / Polaris

Gov. Gavin Newsom holds up some of the seven bills he signed that are part of a $47.1 billion higher education package, the highest level of funding in state history.

Sunday, October 10, was the deadline for Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature in this session.

This year, the Legislature’s focus on education was on Covid-related bills and on a record-high state budget, which includes tens of billions of new and one-time spending, along with policy decisions on how to spend the money. Nonetheless, it also passed unrelated, important bills.

(For a deeper analysis of the 2021-22 state budget, see: Unprecedented California budget to usher in sweeping education changes.)

Here is a roundup of notable education-related legislation with links to some of our coverage and more information about the bill.

Bills signed by the governor

K-12

Ethnic studies: Assembly Bill 101

With the governor’s signature, this bill makes California the first state to require all students to complete a semester-long course in ethnic studies to earn a high school diploma.

For more about this bill:

Broadband access: Assembly Bill 14 and Senate Bill 4

This pair of bills extend a state program that seeks to provide broadband access to Californians via grants that is funded by a tax on phone bills.

For more about these bills:

Mental and behavioral health: Assembly Bill 309, Senate Bill 14 and Senate Bill 224

SB 14 changes the Ed Code to allow for absences due to mental and behavioral health to be counted as excused absences. SB 224 requires mental health instruction to be included in existing health education courses at middle and high schools. AB 309 asks the California Department of Education to consult with the state Department of Health Care Services to develop voluntary protocols for schools in referring students for mental health support.

For more about these bills:

Layoff noticing for classified staff: Assembly Bill 438

This bill requires school districts to provide classified staff with the same advance notice of layoffs that teachers and administrators must receive.

For more about this bill:

Homeless students: Assembly Bill 27 and Senate Bill 400

These bills streamline the process for school districts and charter schools to identify homeless students and their families. They were introduced in response to a state audit that found schools undercounting their homeless students.

For more about the audit that prompted these bills:

Flexibility in meetings: Assembly Bill 361

This new law, which went into effect immediately, provides school districts, charter schools, county offices of education and other local education agencies and their governing boards the flexibility to conduct public meetings virtually during a declared state of emergency such as a pandemic or wildfire.

Higher Education

Financial Aid: Assembly Bill 469

AB 469 requires all students by September 2022 to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act application.

For more about this bill:

Facilitating transfers for community college students: Assembly Bill 928 and Assembly Bill 1111

AB 928 requires the 23-campus California State University and nine undergraduate campuses of the University of California system to establish a joint singular lower-division general education pathway for transfer. It also requires the California Community Colleges to place students who declare a transfer goal on an associate degree for transfer pathway for their intended major.

AB 1111 requires the 116 community colleges to adopt a common course-numbering system that ensures that similar courses at any California community college are aligned so they fulfill the same transfer requirements for CSU and UC systems.

For more about these bills:

BA degrees in community colleges: Assembly Bill 927

This bill extends a pilot program that allowed community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees and allows colleges to increase the number of programs they offer from 15 to 30 per academic year.

For more about this pilot program:

Housing affordability: Assembly Bill 1377 and Senate Bill 330

AB 1377 Requires the CSU system, and requests the UC system, to conduct a student housing needs assessment for each campus, and create a student housing plan outlining how projected student housing needs will be met.

SB 330 requires the Los Angeles Community College District to develop a pilot program to provide affordable housing to students or employees of the district. This bill also allows the district to enter into agreements with nonprofit or private entities to lease real property under certain conditions, in order to develop affordable housing.

Addressing hunger on college campuses: Assembly Bill 396

This bill seeks to expand access to CalFresh food benefits provided through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Ensuring access to higher education for incarcerated students: Senate Bill 416

This bill requires that only non-profit, regionally-accredited institutions are allowed to provide higher education in California prisons. It also amends the state’s Penal Code to recognize the full-time college enrollment of an incarcerated student as full-time work or training assignment.

Early Education

Access to child care for migrant workers: Senate Bill 393

This law aligns the Migrant Child Care Alternative Payment program with other voucher programs, a move which will streamline access to child care subsidies for migrant farm workers.

For more about this bill:

Other bills:

Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021: Assembly Bill 367

This bill requires community colleges and schools serving students in grades 6-12 to stock 50% of the school’s restrooms with feminine hygiene products, and prohibits a public school from charging for any menstrual products provided to pupils.

Bills vetoed by the governor

Cal Grant Reform: Assembly Bill 1456

This bill would have simplified the Cal Grant program, which has been criticized as being overly complicated, and would have expanded aid to 160,000 additional students. Community college students would have benefited the most because they would no longer have needed a minimum grade point average to be eligible for financial aid.

For more about this bill:

Part-time community college faculty: Assembly Bill 375

Part-time and temporary faculty at California’s community colleges are currently limited to a course load of no more than 67% of a full-time equivalent load. This bill would have lifted that cap to 80% to 85% of a full-time equivalent load, and would have prohibited the community college district from restricting the terms of the negotiated agreement to less than that range.

For more about this bill:

 Preschool eligibility: SB 50

This bill would have made it easier for children aged 0-3 to get into the California State Preschool Program and streamlined means testing for eligibility.

For more about this bill:

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