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Assembly Republicans Propose Package of Education Bills, Ranging from School Finance to Teacher Layoffs

March 12, 2015

Assembly Republicans introduced a package of legislation on March 4, collectively dubbed the “#GreatSchools4CA” bill package.

“My children are blessed to be able to learn in good schools from great teachers.  Every child should have the same opportunity, said Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto. “Our current education system is failing millions of California kids, and for the state to do nothing about it is unacceptable. Every child deserves access to a top quality education. Our legislation will create great classrooms for students to learn in and great schools for teachers to work in.”

Among the bills being proposed are Assembly Bill 889 (Chang), which will let high school students in STEM classes (science, technology, engineering and math) to concurrently take STEM classes at community colleges.  This will help better prepare students for the workforce.

“The number of STEM jobs in California will grow by 19 percent over the next decade. We must produce more STEM graduates to meet the growing demand and keep these jobs in our state,” said Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar). “Letting students take STEM courses at community colleges will prepare future video game designers and scientists to get good jobs when they graduate.”

Another bill, Assembly Bill 1044 (Baker), would end the “last in, first out” approach to teacher layoff decisions. This would modernize the law so seniority is only one factor in layoff decisions. (This bill addresses some of the same issues as last year’s Vergara court decision, which is currently being appealed).

“The ‘last in, first out’ system is failing our kids and our teachers. Too often, the teachers who we need most to turn around our toughest schools are given pink slips,” said Assemblywoman Catharine B. Baker, R-San Ramon. “Outdated policies should not stand in the way of every child learning from a great teacher. Reform will ensure that decisions are in a way that works for teachers and students alike.”

Other measures will ensure that teachers are given the tools and support they need to become great teachers. One measure, Assembly Bill 1248 (Chávez), would give teachers more time to master their profession by expanding the timeline to allow tenure to be earned within 3 years.

“Working at a charter school in Oceanside, I got to see firsthand how great teachers were making a difference in the lives of students every day,” said Assembly Member Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, founder and former director of the School of Business and Technology in Oceanside. “To help more teachers reach their potential, we need to make sure that they have the support and the tools required to succeed.”

Assembly Bill 1226 (Chávez and Linder) would add professional development to the items local school districts must evaluate in their annual Local Control and Accountability Plans. This would help districts better direct training programs to struggling teachers.

Assembly Bill 1078 (Olsen) would modify the teacher evaluation system to give teachers “more meaningful annual feedback. This will help them better develop their professional skills to educate their students,” Olsen said.

GOP lawmakers also want to repeal a controversial measure inserted at the last minute into the 2014-15 State Budget limiting how much local districts can save in budget reserves. Assembly Bill 1048 (Baker and Hadley) would repeal the cap on reserves let local schools budget responsibly.

"California's state revenues rise and fall with the economy more than in almost any other state in the country," said Assemblyman David Hadley, R-Torrance. "In past recessions, local school districts were able to use their cash reserves to reduce the classroom impact of state funding cuts. A 2014 law put an arbitrary cap on how much a school district can save. Restoring local control of our schools means removing this cap and letting local communities save for a rainy day."

Another measure, Assembly Bill 1099 (Olsen) would increase transparency over local school spending and performance to better engage parents in their children’s education.

Assembly Republicans said it was also a priority for the Caucus to identify long-term funding arrangements to build safe, effective and modern classrooms for every student.

Source:  California Assembly Republican Caucus