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Senate Education Committee Starts In On Bills

By Sean P. Farrell - March 17, 2011

Senate Bills 107 (Lowenthal-D), 114 (Yee-D), 128 (Lowenthal-D), 140 (Lowenthal-D), and 161 (Huff-R) passed through the Senate Education Committee during their first bill-centric hearing, on Wednesday morning.

SB 161 would authorize the State Department of Public Health to develop performance standards that would allow a school district the option to train employee volunteers to administer Diastat to pupils suffering from epileptic seizures. Diastat, also known as diazepam rectal gel, is meant to be used in emergency situations to stop cluster seizures.  SB 161 seemed to be the item of greatest contention at Wednesday’s hearing. Leaders in the field of pediatric neurology, education professionals, and parents showed up to testify in support. In opposition were parents, teachers, and school nurses, who along with Senator Hancock contended that this bill would not exist if there were nurses in every school. Senator Huff said that even if there were a nurse in every school, he still would have authored this bill, which he says “is about having another safety net of trained individuals who are able to give this life-saving drug (Diastat) to children in their time of need.” Click here for a more in-depth discussion of SB 161. Contention aside, the bill moved out of the Education Committee with a majority in favor.

Each of the remaining bills also received the necessary “ayes” to move to the next stage of their legislative lifespans. SB 107 would extend the sunset of California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) oversight an additional ten years. SB 114 would ensure that part-time community college teachers would have their salaries increased to a comparable rate of their full-time counterparts. The first part of SB 128 would allow school districts the use of modernization grant funds for “the cost of designs and materials that promote characteristics of high performance schools.” The second part would make career technical education facilities eligible for High Performance Incentive Grant Funding.

Finally, SB 140 addresses the adoption of the common core academic content standards, which are also being discussed by the State Board of Education and the Assembly. This bill creates a “streamlined process” for the adoption of instructional materials, and also allows local school boards the authority to adopt materials for K-8 schools.

By comparison to the time spent on SB 161, the Committee powered through the rest of the bills quickly. The speed with which they were handled, however, spoke not to the importance of the matters they addressed; it was probably due in part to the complete lack of registered opposition for the remaining legislation. That said, opposition to these bills may arise as they  make their way through the legislative process or if the state’s budget stalemate takes a turn for the worse..

Editor's Note:  Sean P. Farrell is the Capitol Reporting Intern for EdBrief.