Citing the danger of adding costs at a time of financial uncertainty, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a half-dozen K-12 education-related bills Wednesday, including one that would have required screening all low-income children receiving Medi-Cal services for the potential effects of traumatic experiences. He also rejected a bill that would have required all Cal State campuses and community colleges to establish centers or liaison positions to help undocumented students (see previous EdSource article).

Brown has until the end of Friday to act on hundreds of bills that the Legislature sent to him. There were no education bills among the 60 that he approved on Wednesday. In vetoing four of the education bills, he did not comment on the merits of the proposed programs. But in the veto message addressing those four, Brown cited both the “precarious balance of the state budget” and the need to use available revenue to complete funding of the Local Control Funding Formula, Brown’s signature school reform that directs additional dollars to English learners and low-income students.

The four bills are:

  • AB 1198, authored by Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, D-San Fernando Valley, would have provided money for the California School Finance Authority for a fund to lower the credit risk for districts issuing school construction bonds. Although the bill would have particularly helped reduce borrowing costs for charter schools, which Brown generally supports, a Senate analysis had cited potential General Fund costs of millions of dollars.
  • AB 1783, authored by Assemblyman Bill Dodd, D-Napa, would have required a seismic inspection and report on the condition of every school with a high risk of earthquakes (nearly all in the state) by 2020.
  • AB 2182, authored by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-San Mateo, would have funded neurocognitive testing in three pilot districts of athletes suspected of having experienced a concussion. The goal was to establish protocols, training and baseline data. A legislative analysis cited potential high financial costs to expand the program statewide.
  • SB 1113, authored by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, would have funded pilot programs to expand mental health diagnosis and treatment for Medi-Cal eligible, low-income children through partnerships between school districts and county mental health providers, with an estimated multi-million dollar cost.

In authoring SB 1466, requiring trauma screening of children for emotional and psychological harm from physical and sexual abuses, divorce and parental incarceration, Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, cited the benefits of early diagnosis and treatment, especially for children in foster care. But in his veto message, Brown noted the growth of Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act from 8 million to 14 million Californians, including 5 million children, and his reluctance to add another mandatory service.

Brown did not cite cost in his veto of AB 491, by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, D-San Diego, which would have required districts to explain to parents who take a home language survey that the results may lead to a designation of their child as an English learner. Brown acknowledged there needs to “be a better job” of communicating with parents on this issue but wrote that the bill’s language may have created more confusion among parents.

Brown also vetoed a bill that would have required all Cal State campuses and community colleges to establish centers or liaison positions to help undocumented students. The legislation, AB 2009, would have increased enrollment and graduation rates of such immigrant students, according to its author, Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando. However, state Senate staff estimated the extra state funding would have totaled more than $12 million a year across all Cal State campuses and community colleges. Some UC, Cal State and community college campuses already have started “Dream Centers” to help the rising number of those undocumented students. In his veto message, Brown noted that undocumented students already are eligible for state financial aid and other services. He called on UC, Cal State and community colleges to use existing staff to help these students.

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