New Coalition of Health Advocacy Groups Calls for Statewide Soda Tax in California

By Angela Hart, Politico - Rep: July 29, 2019

Health advocacy groups launched a new campaign on July 17 to pass a statewide 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks, setting up a potential standoff with the beverage industry after it successfully fought five bills this year that sought to curtail soda consumption.

The Californians for Less Soda coalition will also seek to reverse a 2018 law signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown that bans new local soda taxes until 2030 as it presses legislative leaders and Gov. Gavin Newsom to back their campaign.

The group hasn't proposed a specific ballot initiative or legislative measure, but it is pushing for an end-of-session proposal that includes a statewide excise tax on sugary drinks and restores the ability of cities and counties to seek their own soda tax increases...

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California Becomes the First State to Ban Discrimination at Schools Based on Natural Hairstyles

By Nicole Chavez and Faith Karimi, CNN - Rep: July 29, 2019

On July 3, California became the first state in the United States to ban employers and school officials from discriminating against people based on their natural hair.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Crown Act into law, making it illegal to enforce dress code or grooming policies against hairstyles such as afros, braids, twists, and locks.

Los Angeles Democrat Sen. Holly Mitchell, who introduced the bill earlier this year, said the law is about "inclusion, pride and choice."

"This law protects the right of Black Californians to choose to wear their hair in its natural form, without pressure to conform to Eurocentric norms," Mitchell said in a statement Wednesday. "I am so excited to see the culture change that will ensue from the law."...

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Guest Article

‘The Root Cause of Teacher Strikes is Found Not in Oakland or Los Angeles, but in Sacramento’

By Vernon M. Billy, Executive Director, California School Boards Association - June 12, 2019

Teachers in the Bay Area’s New Haven Unified School District hit the picket line several weeks ago. Their counterparts in Los Angeles, Oakland and Sacramento went on strike earlier this year. 2019 is becoming the Year of the Teacher Strike, a phenomenon four decades in the making.

Since the 1970s, California has consistently shortchanged public education and tarnished a school system which was once the state’s crown jewel. Forty years ago, California schools were rated in the top five nationally in per-pupil funding and had the results to match. Today, the state ranks 41st in per-student funding, 50th in student-teacher ratio, 48th in student-administrator ratio, 49th in overall student-staff ratio, 49th in guidance counselors and 50th in librarians...

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State Senate Approves Bipartisan Bill Requiring Lockdown Drills

June 3, 2019

On May 23, the California State Senate approved Senate Bill 541 by Senators Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) and Anthony Portantino (D-La CaƱada/Flintridge) that would require all kindergarten through 12th grade public and private schools, with an enrollment of 50 or more students, to conduct one lockdown drill per school year.

Senator Bates said, “Given the unfortunate threats to California’s schools today, we must ensure that students and staff are prepared for other dangers besides fires. In an active threat situation, seconds matter, and requiring lockdown drills can help save many lives. I thank my Senate colleagues for approving my bipartisan bill with Senator Portantino that will strengthen the safety of schools throughout California.”...

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Proposed California Law Would Outlaw Classroom Dissections

By Andrew Sheeler, Sacramento Bee - Rep: May 7, 2019

Dissecting frogs and cats – a common assignment for kids in California biology classes – could soon be a thing of the past.

A bill from Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, would prohibit animal dissections in K-12 schools, both public and private.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is a sponsor of the bill. The animal rights organization has documented methods used by companies that supply schools with birds, cats and amphibians for classroom dissections. PETA argues the practice is “miserably cruel.”...

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Proposed Legislation to Limit Number of California Charter Schools Sparks Heated Debate Among Parents, Educators

By Scott Rodd, Capital Public Radio News - April 19, 2019

Parents and educators converged on California’s Capitol on April 17 to debate a legislative package that would impose a statewide cap on the number of charter schools, and new oversight rules.

Supporters say charter-school laws have not been revised since they were first introduced more than 25 years ago. The legislation would establish a limit on charter schools in California, based on how many the state has by 2020. It would also grant local school districts sole authority to approve new charter schools and block them from operating outside of said district. The proposed legislative package limiting charter schools is being supported by the California Teachers Union, among other groups, calling for more accountability and oversight of charter schools...

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Attorney General Becerra Joins Multistate Lawsuit Challenging Federal Reversal of Nutrition Standards in Schools

April 19, 2019

On April 3, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined a multistate lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s reversal of school meal nutrition standards that protect the health and well-being of students around the country. In the complaint, the coalition argues the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision failed to rely on any analysis of the relevant science and ignored existing federal dietary guidelines. In addition, USDA violated notification requirements mandated under the federal Administrative Procedure Act.

“Once again, the Trump Administration has shown its disregard for good governance and the facts,” said Attorney General Becerra“That’s why we’re stepping in to protect the long-term health and well-being of our students and children throughout the country. A healthy diet is important for all Americans, but it is especially important for the development of our youth.”...

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Harris' Plan to Raise Teacher Pay is Good Policy, Great Politics

By David A. Love - April 4, 2019

Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris has a bold plan to increase pay for teachers. The California senator's recent $315 billion, 10-year proposal is a timely and sensible policy for a nation that must commit more resources to public school teachers and address inequality in US education. However, Harris' plan also makes for an astute political strategy for the presidential contender, allowing her to make inroads among core Democratic constituents who represent the energy and direction of the party heading into 2020.

The proposal amounts to an average of $13,500 or a 23% increase in salary for each teacher. The federal government would pay the first 10% to states to fill the teacher pay gap, then invest $3 for every $1 the states contribute. The Harris plan would also invest billions in evidence-based programs to boost teacher development, with half of the funds going to historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions, who, research shows, produce 30% of black teachers, and 40% of Latinx teachers...

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Assembly Education Committee Advances “Safe and Supportive Schools” Bill, Supported by LGBTQ Groups

April 4, 2019

On March 29, the California Assembly Education Committee voted 5-0 to pass the Safe and Supportive Schools Act of 2019 (AB 493), legislation that would provide California public schools will provide California public schools with resources to give teachers and staff the tools and training they need to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students. Committee Vice Chair Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) did not cast a vote. AB 493 is authored by Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and co-sponsored by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization.

“Despite an overwhelming amount of harassment, many LGBTQ students do not report their troubles to school staff because they question whether or not effective intervention will occur,” said Assemblymember Gloria. “All students should feel safe, accepted, included, and supported in their school...

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ACLU: Schools Need More Mental Health Professionals, Not Police

By Amir Vera, CNN - March 23, 2019

Public schools need more mental health professionals and fewer police, according to a recently released report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The report found that nearly one-third of public school students, more than 14 million, are enrolled in schools with police but without a counselor, nurse, psychologist or social worker. The shift in resources comes as schools reassess their security measures in the wake of repeated school shootings and as local, state and federal governments make more money available to fund officers on campuses...

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