Mikhail Zinshteyn, EdSource
Assemblymember Miguel Santiago speaks in support of AB 19 at Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles. Kevin de Leon, President Pro Tempore of the State Senate (middle), and Francisco Rodriguez, Chancellor, Los Angeles Community College District (right), listen.

The first year of Community College may be free to an additional 19,000 students under a new program called California College Promise, established in a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week.

Brown signed 89 percent of the 977 bills sent to him by the State Legislature by the Sunday deadlineThe governor considered some 127 bills related to education or children and signed about 100; some 26 were vetoed, according to an EdSource tally.

Details about this and other notable bills related to education that Brown has signed into law or vetoed — including those with wide-ranging implications for early education, K-12 schools and higher education — can be found below. In addition, EdSource has compiled a complete listing of education-related bills signed and vetoed.

While he rarely adds messages to bills he signs, Brown attached clarifying messages to at least three education-related bills — one seeking an amendment to a reserve cap bill, one clarifying how far the sanctuary state bill goes to protect immigrants, and one that suggests further tweaks he believes are needed to laws governing school construction financing. The bills become law on Jan. 1.

California College Promise/Free Community College Tuition  (AB 19)

Assembly Bill 19 signed by Gov. Brown passed overwhelmingly with some Republican support last month.  It opens up the possibility that California’s community colleges will offer free tuition to all full-time first-year students, regardless of financial need. Details for implementing the bill, as well how it will be funded, still need to be worked out by the Legislature.

The new law does not specify exactly how tuition would be waived, and who exactly would benefit, reflecting some of the changes made to it in the final stages of the legislative process.

The law states that “it is the intent of the legislature that sufficient funding be allocated to each community college to waive all student fees” pursuant to another section of AB 19. That section, however, doesn’t require community colleges to use the funds to waive student fees. Instead, it states that colleges “may use funding…to waive some or all fees” of first-year, full-time community college students, who also submit a federal financial aid form known as FAFSA or an application under California’s Dream Act for immigrant students.

Tuition for full-time California residents ranges from roughly $1,100 to $1,400 a year, depending on course load. The free tuition, analysts predict, will cost $30 million to $50 million a year.

But the law doesn’t have a funding mechanism yet. Backers of the bill say negotiations to fund AB 19 with additional state money will begin early 2018 as part of the 2018-19 budget process.

The law’s implementation will be worked out as the 2018-19 budget talks continue, according to an aide to Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, an author of the law. The aide, who requested anonymity because of office policy, said Santiago’s expectation is that most colleges will use the money to offer free tuition, provided that they adopt key reforms, like partnerships with K-12 schools, additional guidance to improve students’ chances of earning a degree, and other changes as spelled out in the law.

In 2015-2016, 43 percent of the state’s more than 2 million community college students qualified for free tuition as low-income students through a fee waiver that was recently renamed the California College Promise Grant.

California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said the law “will help foster a stronger culture of college participation hat will enhance upward social mobility in California.”   He said that he hoped the Legislature would come up with additional funds “to offset the non-tuition costs that create barriers to college attendance for students with financial need.”

Sanctuary state (SB 54)

Senate Bill 54, by state Senate President pro Tem Kevin De León, D-Los Angeles, prohibits local police and other authorities — including those who work at schools — from cooperating with federal immigration agents without a warrant. De León said the bill will bolster trust between immigrant communities and state agencies, and lead to improvements in public safety, school attendance and public health.

Brown signed it Oct. 5 as part of a package of bills “to protect California’s hard-working immigrants.”

In his signing message, Brown outlined the protections provided by the bill, but noted that it “does not prevent or prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Homeland Security from doing their own work in any way.” Nor does it “prohibit sheriffs from granting immigration authorities access to California jails” or “prevent cooperation in deportation proceedings” for those in prisons or jails for certain “serious offenses.”

Dozens of cities and school districts around California have already declared themselves safe havens or sanctuaries, offering varying degrees of protections for immigrants. The Trump administration, meanwhile, has threatened to withhold grants for so-called sanctuary cities and states, saying they hinder the federal government’s ability to enforce immigration laws.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in August, saying it had unconstitutionally attempted to “force California law enforcement officials to engage in federal immigration enforcement, rather than allow them to use their discretion to determine how best to keep their communities safe.”

Ending meal shaming (SB 250)

Students in California whose families owe money for school lunches will no longer be given only a snack — or nothing at all — until they’re all paid up. They’ll get the same meal as all the other students, under a bill signed by the governor on Thursday.

With the unanimous passage of SB 250, sponsored by Sen. Robert Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, California will join a movement not to punish children because their parents fail to pay their lunch debts. The bill will also end “meal shaming,” the practice used in some districts across the nation of verbally reprimanding students in the lunch line or stamping children’s hands as a reminder to their parents that they owe money.

The bill specifically says that districts are not required to give parents a pass on not paying indefinitely. Instead it requires that districts do all they can to enroll families in the subsidized school lunch program and notify families of unpaid balances when they are 10 days behind.

The state PTA and the California Teachers Association were among organizations that backed the bill, which had no official opposition.

School District Financial Reserves (SB 751)

In 2014, the California Teachers Association persuaded Brown to include a cap on district reserves because it suspected districts were hoarding money. The cap would take effect, under some conditions, in favorable revenue years, after the Legislature put money for schools in a state reserve. In that case, districts would have to lower their reserves to an average of 6 percent of their General Fund revenue.

School groups said the limit was too low, potentially jeopardizing solvency — especially for small districts more vulnerable to unforeseen events.

Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, and Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, negotiated a compromise in Hill’s SB 751:

  • The cap on districts will take effect the year after the Legislature contributes 3 percent of the General Fund into the state K-12 reserve;
  • All districts with fewer than 2,501 students will be exempt, along with basic aid districts, which fund schools through local property taxes;
  • The combined cap on assigned reserves (designated for specific purposes) and unassigned reserves will be 10 percent of a district’s General Fund.
  • As under current law, county superintendents can grant districts an exemption in two consecutive years and boards can set aside additional money for a specific purpose in a “defined reserve.”

Brown’s signing message endorsed local control, but said “further clarification in the form of a technical amendment is necessary regarding the application of the 10 percent cap to ensure that this bill is implemented as intended should the reserve cap ever be triggered.”

Susan Henry, president of the California School Boards Association, lauded the bill’s victory.

“We’re thrilled that school boards now have more flexibility to make sound fiscal choices as dictated by the needs of their students and their communities,” she said.

Visual and performing arts content standards in media arts (AB 37)

Assembly Bill 37, by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction, in consultation with the Instructional Quality Commission, to recommend visual and performing arts standards in the subject of media arts to the State Board of Education. This is in addition to content standards in dance, theater, music, and visual arts, which were already required to be recommended and adopted, rejected, or modified by the state board on or before Jan. 31, 2019.

This bill requires the media arts standards to go through the same development, public review, and approval process as the other visual and performing arts standards.

“AB 37 establishes California’s first set of stand-alone media arts standards as the fifth discipline within current visual and performing arts standards, supporting teachers and school districts that choose to teach media arts as a separate discipline in pre-K through 12th grade classes,” O’Donnell said in a statement after the bill was signed in July. “These standards will offer students opportunities to explore artistic projects such as video production, sound design, and game design, among others.”

School facilities design and construction regulations (AB 203)

On Sunday, the governor signed AB 203 by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, which requires the Office of Public School Construction to work with the California Department of Education to create rules that will give school districts more flexibility in designing school facilities and will require the department to offer assistance to small districts seeking to build or fund school buildings. But Brown attached a signing message calling for “additional steps to bring greater flexibility to the School Facilities Program.”

“This could include some modifications to Prop. 51, which now makes the system far too rigid,” he wrote. “I look forward to working with the author and school districts to achieve more substantial reforms.”

Brown had come out against Prop. 51 before voters approved it, saying larger districts were in a better position to take advantage of the funding because of their robust staffs, while smaller districts could be left out.

Native American Studies model curriculum (AB 738)

Brown signed AB 738 on “Indigenous People’s Day,” Oct. 9, which has taken the place of Columbus Day in many communities. The bill requires the state to develop and adopt, modify, or revise a model curriculum in Native American studies and to encourage schools that serve students in grades 9 to 12, which do not already offer a standards-based Native American studies curriculum, to offer such a course based on the model curriculum.

“AB 738 is about communities telling their own stories that can be passed on to future generations,” said Assemblywoman Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, who authored the bill. “A school curriculum that draws upon and reflects the history of all students, especially underrepresented students, is critical in providing a positive, engaging and meaningful experience in the classroom.”

To preserve Native American culture and history, the model curriculum will be designed with input from tribes. California has the largest Native American population in the United States and the third largest American Indian student population, according to Limón.

Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, thanked Limón and the governor “for making this dream a reality.”

“The passage of this bill means that students will have an opportunity to learn about our history, our journey, our sovereignty and our culture through a curriculum that will be developed with vital input and oversight from Native American tribes,” he said.

Charter schools pupil admissions, suspensions, and expulsions (AB 1360)

Assembly Bill 1360, signed by Brown on Friday, requires charter schools to provide a comprehensive description of how school policies will comply with federal and state constitutional due process requirements such as fair notice and the right to be heard when considering involuntary removal.

The bill, which was introduced by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, strengthens due process rights for charter school students on matters related to expulsions and prohibits charters from using admissions policies to exclude student applicants. It also strengthens charter school “equal access” law by requiring charters to notify parents that parental involvement is not a requirement for student acceptance or continued enrollment.

Teachers’ unions and the California Charter Schools Association supported the legislation.

“Charter schools are part of the statewide public school system and must have nondiscriminatory admission policies, as well as suspension and expulsion policies that guarantee all students appropriate due process rights,” the California Teachers Association said in a statement. “Any practices that serve to weed out certain children or families — whether intentional or unintentional — are not acceptable and must be eliminated.”

Carlos Marquez, senior vice president of government affairs for the California Charter Schools Association, praised the new law.

“Equity and access are pillars of the charter public school movement,” he said. “By signing this bill, Governor Brown has made California’s charter public schools stronger for students throughout the state.”

Early Childhood Education

Child care for parents in ESL classes (AB 273)

Approved by Brown on Thursday, AB 273 would allow parents who are enrolled in English as a second language classes or high school equivalency classes to be eligible for subsidized child care services. Families will be able to state, as a criteria for eligibility, that they need assistance with child care services because they are enrolled in English as a second language classes or a program to earn a high school diploma.

Under previous law, families were required to meet at least one requirement in each of two categories to be eligible for these services. In one of those categories, parents had to state the reason they needed assistance with child care services. This category will now include an avenue for parents who are learning English or attaining a high school degree.

“If you can’t learn English or get your GED, you can’t pursue higher education or enter job training,” said Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters, author of the bill. “If you can’t afford childcare, you can’t get these classes.”

She predicted the new law would “support and empower parents who are taking the foundational steps to support their families and find work for years to come.”

Early trauma screening (AB 340)

Assembly Bill 340, signed by Brown on Thursday, will expand screening for children impacted by trauma. It will require that the State Department of Social Services and others adopt, develop and employ protocols for screening children for trauma and will allow the department to develop uniform protocols for screening.

The bill will also require agencies involved to report findings and recommendations.

Under the previous law, through Medi-Cal, families could receive screening and treatment under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment program, or ESDPT. However, this program did not include a provision to specifically screen children for trauma. This bill will add the provision to include screening for trauma in the ESDPT program.

Restricting preschool expulsions (AB 752)

Approved by Brown on Thursday, AB 752 will prohibit state-funded public and private pre-school programs from expelling or unenrolling a child because of a child’s behavior unless the school has explored and documented “reasonable steps to maintain the child’s safe participation in the program.” In addition, the school site will be required to consult with multiple parties and through due process indicate that the child poses a safety threat to other children enrolled in the program in order to proceed with expulsion.

The preschool program must also be prepared to refer the parent or legal guardian to alternative program placements for the child in the community.

Other Higher Education bills

Reforming remedial education (AB 705)

The other major update to the community college system is AB 705, which the Legislature passed unanimously last month.

The law requires community colleges to use students’ high school GPA or coursework as part of the suite of tools to determine whether they are ready for college-level math and English classes. This is a break from current practice in which colleges largely rely on standardized tests, something many experts believe is an unfair practice because they say high school grades capture a more robust snapshot of how much students know.

The law will also bar colleges from assigning students to remedial classes unless their evaluations — including high school work — make it clear they “are highly unlikely” to succeed in college-level math and English courses. That provision is a response to research that suggests students who bypass remedial courses and are placed in college-level classes learn the material faster and are more likely to attain a degree or certificate.

California Community Colleges chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley called the bill “a win-win for our students, colleges and the state’s taxpayers.”

College Promise Partnership Act (AB 1533)

A program set to expire this year that is a national model for how a school district can partner with its local community and four-year colleges became permanent after Gov. Brown’s signature last week.

Assembly Bill 1533 by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D–Long Beach, gave the Long Beach College Promise Partnership Act new life after its initial half-decade run in which it was credited with increasing transfer rates from community college to CSU Long Beach. The Promise, as it’s known, includes a bevy of strategies for increasing college entrance and completion, like allowing high school students to take college courses, mentoring and clearer pathways for attaining a degree or certificate.

The bill received unanimous support from lawmakers in both chambers.

UC requests from the California State Auditor’s Office: prohibition on coordination (AB 1655)

The governor signed a bill that seeks to ensure that the state Auditor has access to reliable information about the 10 University of California campuses without interference or manipulation by the UC’s central Office of the President. The bill, AB 1655, was written by Assemblyman Tim Grayson, D-Concord, and passed both houses of the legislature unanimously.

It grew out of a controversy last spring in which an audit report alleged that the UC president’s office had wrongly gotten involved in a survey about how the campuses rate the services provided by the UC system’s central administration. The audit documented instances of how campuses’ initial responses were changed to be more favorable after consulting with the president’s office.

The new law prohibits campuses “from coordinating their responses with, or seeking counsel, advice, or similar contact” from the UC president’s office when the state Auditor’s Office asks for information about spending. It also requires the auditor to include an explicit statement in such requests that the president’s office not be informed about it.

UC denied it was trying to block the auditor from doing its job. It also claimed that the auditor had mischaracterized $175 million in special UC funds as undisclosed. UC said that much of that money was committed to various projects and causes and were never hidden from view.

The law also demands more transparency when UC reports every other year about its total costs of education. It requires that the spending information be based on publicly available data and on actual expenditures in the prior year rather than estimates.

Notable vetoes

Paid maternity leave for school and community college employees (AB 568)

Brown on Sunday vetoed AB 568, sponsored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, which would have required school districts, charter schools and community colleges to provide at least six weeks of full pay for pregnancy-related leaves of absence for most employees. In his veto message, Brown said he had signed two other bills in 2015 and 2016 that allow for “differential pay” related to maternity and paternity leave.

“I believe further decisions regarding leave policies for school employees are best resolved through the collective bargaining process at the local level,” he wrote. “I would also encourage districts to consider participating in the State Disability Insurance program that would allow these employees to receive pay in addition to what is already being provided.”

Classified school employees Summer Furlough Fund (AB 621)

To help provide a steady income to some “classified” school employees who are not certificated teachers or administrators during the summer months when they are not working, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, authored AB 621 to create a Classified School Employees Summer Furlough Fund that would have provided a state match on a two-to-one basis for those who voluntarily contributed to the fund. But Brown vetoed the bill on Oct. 8, saying in his veto message that “employee compensation is a matter subject to local collective bargaining.”

“This bill reduces the flexibility of local educational agencies and bargaining units to agree on employee compensation in a manner that reflects local needs, resources and priorities,” he wrote.

Information about bills that didn’t pass the legislature or make it to the governor’s desk — but that could resurface next year — can be found here.

EdSource writers Theresa Harrington, John Fensterwald, Mikhail Zinshteyn, Larry Gordon, Ashley Hopkinson, George White and Carolyn Jones contributed to this article. 

This report was updated on Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. to reflect the uncertainties about what students would benefit from the tuition provisions of AB 19. 

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