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Many Bills Signed, A Few Vetoed

Governor Acts on Legislation Relating to Vaccinations, English Learners, Math, Principals, Charter Schools

October 4, 2012

Governor Jerry Brown spent most of the last two weeks dealing with over 1,000 bills that were sent to his desk during a blizzard of legislative activity in September. The Governor vetoed a number of bills, but signed the vast majority of new legislation that the California Assembly and California Senate had approved. Among the new laws that will impact K-12 education:

Student Vaccinations

Brown signed legislation (AB 2109) requiring parents who exempt a child from school vaccinations to have talked with a licensed health care practitioner about the impacts the exemption has on the health of their family and community.

Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health, authored the bill to empower communities with information they can use to protect themselves against vaccine-preventable diseases that he has seen devastate families in his career as a pediatrician.

“When parents send their children to school or child care, they want their children and families to be safe and healthy,” Dr. Pan said. “Parents are rightly concerned when they learn of a contagious disease at school, whether it is pink eye, head lice or a life-threatening disease such as meningitis. As a pediatrician, I have personally witnessed children suffering life-long injury and death from vaccine-preventable infection. When the contagion spreads in communities with immunization rates below 90 percent, not only those who choose to be unimmunized are infected, but also people who cannot be immunized including young infants, cancer patients on chemotherapy, AIDS patients, and people with vaccine allergies.  AB 2109 utilizes the expertise of California’s 150,000 licensed health care practitioners to inform parents about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, answering specific questions they may have.”

In many communities across the state, over 10 percent of parents are using California’s personal belief exemption to exempt children from vaccine requirements that bi-partisan legislative majorities passed to protect schools and communities. At these levels, there are enough unvaccinated people per-capita in a given community to substantially increase the risk that they will pass a vaccine-preventable disease to those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, including chemotherapy patients, infants who are too young, or those with HIV or other conditions.

California is the second state to implement such a measure after Washington State. After implementing a similar law last year, Washington public health officials recently announced that 25 percent fewer parents decided to exempt their children from school vaccination requirements after discussing the issue with a licensed health care practitioner.

The Governor issued a signing message that can be found here.

AB 2109 goes into effect January 1, 2014.

API Redefinition

The Governor signed SB 1458, authored by Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg. SB 1458 will redefine the Academic Performance Index (API) by relying less on standardized bubble-test scores and more on other important factors such as graduation rates, and student readiness for higher education, technical training, and entering into a globally competitive job market.

“I believe this measure will prove to be the most significant education reform bill of the decade, fueling linked learning and fundamentally changing what we teach and how we measure accomplishment. I’m pleased the Governor agrees that test scores alone are hardly a true indicator of the success or failure of our students,” said Steinberg. “For years, ‘teaching to the test’ has become more than a worn cliché because 100 percent of the API relied on bubble tests scores in limited subject areas. But life is not a bubble test and that system has failed our kids. By balancing testing with factors like graduation rates, and measuring how prepared our students are for entering college and the workforce, SB 1458 will spur the system into delivering higher quality education combining real-world relevance and academic rigor. In years to come, I believe we’ll see the true impact of this fundamental reform in our schools”

SB 1458 will limit test scores to account for no more than 60 percent of the API for high schools, creating room for the state Superintendent of Public Instruction and State Board of Education to incorporate other important factors and to develop a system of local school quality review. The State Superintendent would also be directed to develop methods for increasing emphasis on science and social science, which currently carry little weight in the API.

For elementary and middle schools, where alternative data is less developed, standardized tests must account for at least 60 percent of the API.

SB 1458 was supported by a wide cross section of dozens of business, education and parent organizations. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the California State PTA, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, the University of California, the Los Angeles Unified School District, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the California Building Industry Association and many others have backed Senator Steinberg’s measure.

The Governor last year vetoed a previous version of Steinberg’s legislation. This year’s version included a number of changes intended to satisfy the Governor’s objections to the earlier bill.

Math Standards

The Governor signed AB 1246, by Julia Brownley(D-Santa Monica), which authorizes the adoption of Common Core instructional materials for mathematics by 2014 and provides districts flexibility in the selection of instructional materials.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said “AB 1246 means we are one step closer to implementing Common Core standards in California — a practical way to prepare our kids for the challenges of a constantly changing world by learning the real-world skills they need for career and college. Despite our budget problems—which are very real — California must move forward now so that all children graduate ready to contribute to the future of our state and our country.

"With this legislation, the State Board of Education is now authorized to adopt math instructional materials aligned to the Common Core, and it also allows school districts to purchase any instructional materials that are aligned California's standards — providing both flexibility and consistency as we work to serve kids across California."

Supporters of this legislation included the Bay Area Council, the California School Boards Association, the California Teachers Association, Children Now, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Los Angeles County Office of Education, among others.

English Learners

Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2193 by Assembly Member Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). AB 2193 aims to prevent English learners at risk of becoming Long-Term English Learners (LTEL) from falling through the cracks of our educational system by creating a definition for this group of students and by requiring the California Department of Education to collect data on LTELs on annual basis and report the findings to each school and school district in the state.

“AB 2193 will make English learners visible by identifying and defining a group of students with very unique language and academic needs. Schools and districts will now have the tools to properly track and address their progress toward improvement,” said Lara.

According to Californians Together, in the past 25 years, the English learner population has doubled to approximately 1.4 million in California’s public school system. Of English learners enrolled in grades 6-12 in California public schools for more than six years, an alarming 59% stagnate at low levels of English proficiency and academic achievement. Although California mandates public schools address the language barriers confronting our state’s English learners, a disproportionate number of California’s English learners never attain fluent English proficiency.

Specifically, AB 2193 defines in the Education Code the term ‘Long-Term English Learner’ and the term ‘English learner at risk of becoming a Long-Term English Learner’ resulting in a uniform statewide definition of these two student groups. The measure also requires the California Department of Education to annually compile the number of students who are LTELs and at risk of becoming LTEL andreport the number of students who are LTEL and who are at risk of becoming LTEL’s to each school and school district.

The measure is the first ever effort in the nation to focus on Long-Term English Learners and will provide direction for California and states throughout the country. The bill was sponsored by both Californians Together and California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE).

Charter Renewals, Revocations

Governor Brown signed SB 1290 by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara). The bill puts in place new requirements for charter renewals and revocations.

SB 1290 amends the charter renewal and revocation codes to explicitly state that authorizers must consider increases in pupil achievement for all groups of pupils served by the charter school as the most important factor in determining whether to grant a renewal.  The bill did not eliminate the authority of authorizers to renew a charter that meets one of the existing criteria.  Stephanie Farland, Executive Director of Collaborative Solutions for Charter Authorizers (CSCA), told EdBrief that “The important piece, besides the focus on academic achievement, is the inclusion of subgroups. In the past, a charter just had to show improvement.  Now they have to look at all substantial subgroups which will impact many charter schools come renewal time. The subgroup piece is part of the reason some people opposed this bill.  Charter schools that serve at-risk students or that are drop out recovery programs may have a hard time meeting this criteria”.

Also on the topic of charter schools, the Governor also vetoed AB 1811, by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), which would have changed the way conversion charter schools in unified districts are funded. A veto message can be found here.

Principal Evaluations

Governor Brown signed SB 1291, by Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada/Flintridge), which provides districts with a foundation to establish evaluation plans that present clear expectations of principals, encourage regular intervals of evaluation, and states that reviews should include goals defined by the local school district.

“As a former teacher and administrator, I know that school principals have a tough job,” said Liu. “This bill lets local school districts decide on clear and consistent standards so principals can do their jobs effectively and create a high-quality learning environment.”

The legislation takes effect January 1, 2013. The Association of California School Administrators sponsored SB 1292, which received bipartisan support and passed the Senate unanimously in August. The bill is voluntary – school districts can choose to participate or not.

Principal evaluations must provide feedback to guide professional growth and help to improve principal performance while raising student achievement according to Liu.  Evaluations should reflect the complex responsibilities of a principal, address professional development needs or, as necessary, intervene when there are persistent performance issues.

“Free Schools”

Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1575, by Assembly Member Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), ensuring "free schools" for all California's children, regardless of economic status. AB 1575 aims to identify, prevent, and address the charging of student fees in violation of a student’s constitutional right to a free public education, without imposing costly new requirements on school districts. Additionally, administrators will receive the appropriate guidance to successfully fundraise without infringing on a student’s constitutional right to a free public education.

“Equal educational opportunity in free public schools is the bedrock of our democratic society, promising that every child will have a chance to achieve the American dream.  AB 1575 ensures the ‘free schools’ guarantee is applied equally to all children in our state and remains a meaningful protection in our Constitution,” said Assembly Member Lara.

An August 2010 investigation by the ACLU of Southern California uncovered a widespread practice among public school districts of charging students mandatory fees to participate in educational activities.  For example, districts were requiring students to purchase textbooks, workbooks, and assigned novels in order to matriculate in academic courses.  In September 2010, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of students alleging the fees violate the California Constitution’s free public education guarantee and discriminate against lower-income students by creating a “pay to learn” system that threatens the integrity of our state’s public education system. AB 1575 will resolve the ACLU lawsuit.

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Among the other education-related bills that the Governor signed (and the following list is by no means all-inclusive):

  1. AB 644 by Assemblymember Robert Blumenfield (D-Van Nuys) – Schools: average daily attendance: online instruction.
  2. AB 1723 by Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes (D-Los Angeles) – Postsecondary educational institutions: meetings: live video and audio transmission.
  3. AB 1955 by Assemblymember Marty Block (D-San Diego) – Public postsecondary education: campus law enforcement agency and student liaison.
  4. AB 1967 by Assemblymember John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) – Pupil instruction: health and science education: organ and tissue donation.
  5. AB 2122 by Assemblymember Ricardo Lara (D-South Gate) – Standardized testing: testing accommodations.
  6. AB 2269 by Assemblymember Sandré Swanson (D-Oakland) – Pupil instruction: Labor History Month.
  7. AB 2296 by Assemblymember Marty Block (D-San Diego) – California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009.
  8. AB 2307 by Assemblymember Betsy Butler (D-Marina Del Rey) – School employees: re-employment.
  9. AB 2435 by Assemblymember Roger Hernández (D-Baldwin Park) – Education finance: indirect cost rates.
  10. AB 2491 by Assemblymember Robert Blumenfield (D-Van Nuys) – Pupil instruction: gifted and talented pupil program: standard for pupil identification.
  11. AB 2662 by Committee on Education – Education.
  12. SB 121 by Senator Carol Liu (D-Pasadena) – Pupils: foster children: special education.
  13. SB 298 by Senator Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) – Charter schools: at-risk pupils: Los Angeles County Board of Education.
  14. SB 754 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) – School funding: economic impact aid.
  15. SB 960 by Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) – California State University: campus-based mandatory fees.
  16. SB 1028 by Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – Education finance.
  17. SB 1568 by Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) – Pupils: foster children: educational placement.

The Governor also vetoed the following bills:

  1. AB 1811 by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) – Charter schools: funding. A veto message can be found here.
  2. AB 1919 by Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica) – Pupils: achievement data: charter schools. A veto message can be found here.
  3. SB 885 by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) – Public education accountability: longitudinal education data system. A veto message can be found here.
  4. SB 1235 by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) – Pupils: suspension. A veto message can be found here.
  5. SB 1497 by Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino) – Pupil data: dropouts: report. A veto message can be found here.

For full text of the bills, visit: http://leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html.

Source:  EdBrief staff