This story was updated on Oct. 12 to include Gov. Jerry Brown’s actions on Oct. 11, the deadline for him to sign or veto bills.
In recent days, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed or vetoed some of the remaining bills the state Legislature approved during the 2015 session, including legislation that suspends the high school exit exam, creates new rules for placing high school students in math classes, and increases support for foster students in California.
On his final day to sign or veto bills, Brown vetoed a bill that would have required the California Department of Education to provide four hours of training to family child-care providers in state-subsidized programs, saying in his veto message that the measure was premature in anticipating changes in federal child care laws.
This was the first of a two-year legislative session, so some bills that stalled this year – including those that would change teacher evaluations and lift the cap on districts’ budget reserves – will be back next year. Here’s what happened to the key education bills EdSource has been tracking.
Signed by the governor
High school exit exam suspension: SB 172, authored by Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge, addresses the future and the past of the California High School Exit Exam, or CAHSEE, which has been a graduation requirement starting with the Class of 2006. The new law allows former high school students who failed the exam as far back as 2006 be awarded diplomas, as long as they passed all of their required classes. It also suspends the exam as a graduation requirement for the 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. That gives educators and lawmakers time to decide whether to require a new test or use other measures for graduation. The law goes into effect Jan. 1, which means former students can contact their districts next year about getting their diplomas. See frequently asked questions about the exit exam from EdSource and the California Department of Education.
In August, Brown signed a related bill that allows seniors from the Class of 2015 to graduate if they didn’t pass the exam. The emergency legislation went through after the July exam was cancelled, giving seniors who had failed the exam no chance to retake it.
Vaccination requirements: California has a new vaccination law, effective July 1, 2016, that says parents can no longer refuse to vaccinate their children in public or private schools based on their personal opposition. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law (SB 277), authored by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, on June 30. The elimination of vaccine opt-outs affects the small number of students – 2.5 percent of kindergartners statewide in 2014 – who hold a personal belief exemption to childhood vaccinations required for school enrollment. Under the new law, children may continue to obtain from a doctor a medical exemption to vaccinations.
Math placement: The California Mathematics Placement Act (SB 359), authored by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, was passed with student equity in mind: to ensure that capable students aren’t assigned less-demanding courses. The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2016, will require districts to adopt “a fair, objective, and transparent” set of criteria, such as test scores and grades, for placing students in 9th-grade math courses. Districts would be required to analyze data to ensure that students haven’t been misassigned because of their race, ethnicity, gender or socioeconomic background. Each school would have to check during the first month of the school year to verify that a student has been assigned appropriately.
The Silicon Valley Community Foundation sponsored the bill in response to 2010 research by the Noyce Foundation that found capable minority students were held back from Algebra courses in 9th grade, taking them off the trajectory for admission to UC schools. “The Governor’s action marks a significant victory for everyone involved in working to end the disturbing practice of math misplacement in our schools,” said Emmett Carson, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, said after Brown signed the bill.
Dual enrollment: Gov. Jerry Brown rarely comments on bills that he signs but was effusive in a message praising AB 288, which would expand opportunities for agreements establishing dual enrollment, in which high school students concurrently take community college courses. “I believe these flexible, locally based arrangements will be useful,” Brown wrote, “and I encourage local governing boards to consider these dual enrollment partnerships as they work to improve student success” and the time it takes to earn a degree.
The bill, by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, would expand high school students’ access to community college courses when high school districts and local community colleges have formed partnerships. The agreements would have to focus on creating career-technical pathways and establishing remediation courses preparing students for college. Supporters say that dual enrollment increases the odds of college graduation.
Also of note: AB 889, by Assemblywoman Ling-Ling Chang, R-Diamond Bar, would have expanded dual enrollment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses. AB 889 died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee in May.
Instructional time: School districts in California will no longer be allowed to enroll 9th- to 12th-grade students in classes with no educational content, to send students home early because there was no class for them, or require students to re-take a class they have passed, under AB 1012, authored by Assemblyman Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer Sr., D-South Los Angeles, and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. School districts had maintained that logistical problems and teacher shortages resulted in gaps in student schedules.
Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, school districts are prohibited from assigning students to courses with no educational content for more than one week per semester. Students may not be assigned to a class they have previously completed with a grade sufficient for application to the California public higher education system unless the class is designed to be taken more than once and presents new material.
Increased support for foster students: Assembly Bill 854, which takes effect this school year, makes Foster Youth Services available to all children in foster care. Foster Youth Services is a statewide program administered through county offices of education that offers counseling and tutoring services. Previously, children living with relatives were not eligible for these services. Authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, AB 854 also requires Foster Youth Services to focus on coordinating services for students – including for the first time working with postsecondary education institutions such as colleges and apprenticeship programs to help youth transition from foster care into adulthood.
The law also changes the funding formula, which now supports existing programs. Beginning in 2016-17, county offices of education will apply for Foster Youth Services grants based on an allocation system to be developed this school year by the California Department of Education. Dedicated funding for the program increased from $15 million to $25 million in the 2015-16 budget.
Vetoed by the governor
Preschool expansion: The Preschool for All Act (AB 47), authored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, passed with bipartisan support, but failed to get backing from Brown. The bill would have set a deadline of June 30, 2018 for granting all low-income 4-year-olds access to transitional kindergarten or state preschool. It was meant to firm up a promise made in last year’s legislation (SB 837) that set the eventual goal of providing pre-kindergarten schooling for all low-income 4-year-olds. Because of that previous commitment, Brown said in his veto message that the bill was unnecessary and that future preschool funding should be addressed in the budget-setting process.
AB 47 had no money attached to it and was contingent on money available in future budgets. Cost estimates varied greatly, ranging between $147 million and $240 million, depending on how many children are placed in full-day vs. half-day programs. Between 32,000 and 35,000 low-income 4-year-olds lack access to state preschool, transitional kindergarten or federal Head Start programs.
Training new teachers: Citing the burden of creating a state mandate costing more than $100 million annually, Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 141, by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord. It would have required those districts choosing to offer the teacher training and mentoring program, called Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA), to provide it without charge.
The state mandates that new teachers take BTSA or an alternative training program like it in order to receive a full or “clear” teaching credential. For years, the state funded districts’ BTSA programs, but as part of massive cuts in spending in 2009, legislators eliminated reimbursements to districts and made providing BTSA optional. Since then, some districts have been charging teachers an average of $2,500 for the two-year program.
An earlier version of AB 141 would have required all districts to provide BTSA for free, but the final version left the decision of whether to offer it up to districts, creating the possibility that teachers would have had to obtain a more expensive training program through a college or university.
The current state budget includes $490 million that Brown and the Legislature indicated should be used for teacher training programs over the next three years – although, under local control, districts have the flexibility to spend the money for any purpose they choose. “Part of this funding should be used to support new teachers. Creating a new mandate is not the answer,” Brown wrote in his veto message.
Also of note: Not headed to the governor is Senate Bill 62, which would have restored funding for Assumption Program of Loans for Educators, or APLE, a loan program that forgave $11,000 or more in college loans if a new teacher agreed to teach for four years in a hard-to-staff school. The state budget included no money for APLE, and the author of SB 62, Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, plans to reintroduce the bill next year.
For-profit charter schools: The operation of for-profit charter schools will continue in California with Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of AB 787, by Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina. In a veto message, Brown said, “I don’t believe the case has been made to eliminate for-profit charter schools in California.” He added that the “somewhat ambiguous terms” used in the bill could be interpreted to restrict the ability of non-profit charter schools to continue using for-profit vendors. Restricting for-profit vendors, such as the Virginia-based for-profit company K12 Inc., had been the focus of legislative hearings on the bill but was not explicitly stated in the legislation.
Training for family child-care providers: Senate Bill 548, authored by Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, would have required the California Department of Education to provide a four-hour training to family child-care providers in state-subsidized programs that would have covered navigating the state’s child-care system, health and safety requirements, federal regulations and an introduction to California’s early learning curriculum. In his veto message, Brown said the bill “prematurely anticipates” what will be required under upcoming changes in federal child care laws. He said he would direct the state agencies involved to review any changes in federal law and determine any need for training.
Dead for the year
Cap on budget reserves: There was much sound and fury but, in the end, no movement forward on the effort to rescind or at least soften the limit on the rainy-day reserves that school districts could hold for emergencies and for future spending. The cap would be tied to those years when the state put money into a new K-12 rainy day fund. A Republican-led effort to repeal the cap through SB 774, sponsored by Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, got no traction, and a late-session push by a coalition led by the California School Boards Association, through SB 799, to raise the cap and remove it for small districts sputtered in the closing days of the legislative session.
Teacher evaluations: There was an all-out effort early in the year by lawmakers in both parties to revise the teacher tenure law known as the Stull Act, with House Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, signing on as co-sponsors of nearly identical bills, SB 499 and AB 575. But disagreement over how much say teachers should have in determining what criteria to use to evaluate them – a perennial point of contention – stalled action this year. Talks will continue with hope for a deal next year, said a spokesman for Sen. Carol Liu, co-sponsor of SB 499.
Also of note: A Republican teacher evaluation bill, AB 1078, by Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, also would have rewritten the Stull Act to require annual teacher reviews using four evaluation categories, instead of the current pass-fail system, with incentives to include the use of standardized test scores as a factor. It died in committee.
AB 1184, by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, would have permitted a third year of probation before a decision on teacher tenure specifically for San Jose Unified, whose teachers union and school board had negotiated the provision. Under current law, tenure decisions are made after only 18 months, although the Superior Court judge in the Vergara v. State of California lawsuit last year struck down that statute; his ruling is under appeal. AB 1184 failed to move this year and will be reintroduced in the next legislative session.
School transportation: The Local Control Funding Formula froze an inequitable formula for school transportation at 2012-13 levels, with some districts getting 10 percent of their costs covered, while others get 80 percent. SB 191 would fund 50 percent of busing costs for all districts by 2021-22. This year’s budget included no extra money, so author Marty Block, D-San Diego, will be back pushing the bill next year.
Money for Common Core: Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, didn’t get precisely what she proposed under AB 631: an additional $900 million in one-time funding to implement the Common Core State Standards. But this year’s state budget does include $3 billion in one-time expenditures that Gov. Brown encourages – but does not require – districts to spend on implementing the new academic standards. An additional $500 million must be spent on improving teacher quality and effectiveness, which districts can use for professional development in the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.
After-school program funding: After the governor and legislators failed to include additional funding for after-school programs in the 2015-16 budget, Senate Bill 645 never made it out of the appropriations committee. The bill, authored by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, would have increased funding for the state’s After School Education and Safety Program by $54 million in 2015-16 and $72 million plus cost-of-living adjustments annually thereafter. Advocates argued that stagnant funding since the $550 million program began in 2006 is making it difficult for after-school programs to attract high-quality staff and continue to serve the same number of students, and the need to offer programs in areas of the state that are not served.
Charter school discipline: Charter schools are exempt from most laws that govern school districts, but they would have had to comply with disciplinary procedures similar to those used in district schools under the terms of SB 322, authored by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. Supporters of the bill, including the California Teachers Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, alleged that students at some charter schools have been expelled for minor infractions and have not been informed of their right to a fair hearing. Opponents, including the California Charter School Association Advocates, said students receive due process at charter schools and that the schools have the right to design their own suspension and expulsion policies. The bill also would have modified preferences in charter school admissions to ensure they do not limit enrollment for students with disabilities, students from low-income families or English learners.
AP course expansion: AB 252, authored by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, would have created the Advanced Placement STEM Access Grant Program, which would have provided up to $8,000 in grants to eligible high schools to help cover the costs of creating or expanding AP courses in science, technology, engineering and math. The bill aimed to boost the number of female, African-American and Latino students, who have traditionally enrolled in AP courses in biology, chemistry, calculus, physics, computer science and statistics at lower rates than other student groups. The bill stalled in the Senate Appropriations Committee after the author and the committee members indicated they wanted to discuss the bill further.