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New K-12 Rules Going into Effect

Federal Court Rulings and New Legislation Set the Scene for Education in 2011

By Andrew Keller - November 17, 2010

Following a tumultuous legislative year in which the debate over teacher evaluations took center stage, the education landscape is taking shape for 2011 — but not as expected.

Typically mundane issues like public employee compensation and pupil immunizations took center stage at many policy committee hearings.  Federal courts overturned expanded definitions of “highly qualified” teachers.  And early childhood education advocates successfully rolled back kindergarten start dates for all districts.

Surprisingly, students were the only group able to accomplish anything regarding teacher evaluations, successfully pushing forth new legislation allowing student governments to conduct surveys about teacher performance.
Despite the year’s earlier high-profile policy debates, this year’s legislative session ended with a broad range of policy changes for 2011.

Kindergarten start date

SB 1381 (Simitian – D) is arguably the most substantial education bill passed this year, as it upends kindergarten classrooms throughout the state. Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, districts will be required to gradually roll back the cutoff date for students to turn five-years-old from December 2nd to September 1st.  The rollback will happen over three years: November 1st for the 2012-13 school year, October 1st for 2013-14, and September 1st for 2014-15.

In addition to the rollback, school districts are now required to offer transitional kindergarten for those students who will be displaced by the new regulations.  The major hurdles for districts between January 2011 and September 2012 (when the rollback begins) are to define curriculum for transitional kindergarten, allocate staff, and educate parents about the changes.

Some questions remain about implementation, specifically whether or not there will be content guidelines.  Senator Simitian (D-Palo Alto) insists that the bill was written to give districts plenty of latitude to implement the bill in the manner best suited to their needs; nevertheless he confirms that he will be authoring legislation in the next regular session to provide further guidance.  The California Department of Education (CDE), additionally, will provide a list of frequently asked questions about the regulations on a web page in the near future.

Pupil immunizations

Budget cuts have forced districts to operate with fewer school nurses on staff, causing excessive friction between nurses unions, school districts, and legislators.  High-profile student health issues only further fanned the flames between these two groups in policy committee hearings.  Bills in both houses attempted to find creative ways to circumvent both legal and budgetary restraints on districts hoping to provide influenza immunizations, epilepsy treatments, and insulin injections.  Of these issues, unions, districts, and legislators only found enough common ground on influenza immunizations. Students with epilepsy and diabetes will have to wait until next year.

AB 1937 (Fletcher – R) expands the pool of health care practitioners who may administer immunizations to pupils as part of a school immunization program to include (under the direction of a supervising physician and surgeon):

    1. Physician assistants
    2. Nurse practitioners
    3. Licensed vocational nurses
    4. Nursing students acting under the supervision of a Registered Nurse

These practitioners are also limited by AB 1937 to administer only immunizations for seasonal influenza, pandemic influenza episodes (such as the recent H1N1 pandemic), and other diseases as declared by the appropriate public health officials.

Federal court rulings

The Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Renee v. Duncan (2010) that the federal Secretary of Education illegally expanded the definition of “highly qualified” teachers as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB requires that only the highest quality teachers provide instruction in core classes at schools that receive Title 1 funding. The federal regulations under scrutiny sought to clarify that the term “highly qualified” includes those teachers already certified through alternative routes or those currently participating in alternate routes to certification.

Renee v. Duncan ruled that this clarification amounted to an expanded definition of “highly qualified” that includes teachers simply making satisfactory progress toward certification, instead of only fully certified teachers, as intended in NCLB.  California modeled its regulations on the now-invalidated federal guidelines, and will now require action to address the issue. It remains unclear what steps the California Department of Education (CDE) will take to amend the regulations.  This ruling will undoubtedly cause headaches for districts that need reallocate personnel at Title 1 schools.

Public employees

Despite striking down the major measures attacking compensation issues highlighted by the City of Bell scandal (involving high salaries for city administrators), Governor Schwarzenegger passed several bills designed to ease the impact of furloughs on the public employee retirement system.

AB 1651 (De La Torre - D) will allow CalPERS members employed by county offices of education and school or community college districts to have their accounts credited for service and earnable compensation that would have been reported if furloughs had not been mandated.

AB 1856 (Fong – D) allows CalPERS members to suspend after-tax service credit payments — used to enhance retirement benefits — for up to one year, to cancel the purchase of such credits, and to repurchase credits that were previously cancelled.  AB 1856 allows a member who retires during such a suspension period to pay the balance owed in a lump sum.  AB 1856 also allows CalPERS to cancel a member’s remaining unpaid balance if he or she fails to pay on an installment plan for 12 or more months.

Editor's Note:  Andrew Keller is a Policy Consultant for Governmental Solutions Group, LLC, a policy consulting and legislative advocacy firm.