Legislative Action Week showcases power of collective advocacy
Trustees met with more than 100 state legislators to discuss school issues

Over three days in March, nearly 400 school district and county office of education board members and superintendents representing local educational agencies throughout California met virtually with more than 100 state legislators and their staff.

During CSBA’s Legislative Action Week, the association’s flagship legislative advocacy event, members brought their stories, challenges and on-the-ground experience to the Legislature to shine a light on the top issues facing their schools and students. Their support in advancing CSBA’s legislative priorities — which are guided by member input — will be critical to the success of the association’s ability to shape policy on members’ behalf.

“Legislative Action Week offers our members a platform to highlight the top issues facing their schools and students — a local perspective that sometimes gets lost in the race to craft statewide legislation aimed at improving student outcomes,” said CSBA President Susan Markarian. “I was proud to join other trustees from all parts of the state to urge the Legislature to protect recent investments that are essential to learning recovery and to fully fund the Local Control Funding Formula. These steps are critical to ensure that schools have resources, but also the flexibility required to invest in programs and services that are tailored to the needs of our communities.”

Budget priorities
In their meetings with senators and assemblymembers, CSBA members urged the Legislature to fully fund the LCFF cost-of-living adjustment in the 2023–24 budget without retroactively reducing the Arts, Music & Instructional Materials Discretionary Block Grant (AMIM Grant). This grant funding is entirely discretionary and making retroactive cuts will create challenges as districts have already committed it to critical day-to-day operational costs or capital improvements, including bargaining for incentives to recruit and retain staff, planning to buy down pension obligations and health benefits, or planning to purchase HVAC system replacements, school safety surveillance equipment and instructional materials. Attendees urged the Legislature to reject the proposal to retroactively reduce the AMIM Grant and focus on other, far less disruptive reductions to school districts.

Local education leaders also advocated for the Legislature to remain focused on ensuring successful implementation of the large programs undertaken in recent years — such as universal transitional kindergarten, the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program, home-to-school transportation, the community schools grant program and universal free school meals — rather than creating new categorical programs. With limited funding available this year, members emphasized the imperative to stay focused on existing commitments to ensure successful implementation.

Key perspectives on CSBA-sponsored legislation

Members also focused their advocacy on three of the eight bills CSBA is sponsoring this year. Assembly Bill 1023 (Papan, D-San Mateo), addresses the growing risk of ransomware attacks for California schools. For many school districts, it is not a matter of if but when they will be the victim of a ransomware attack on their school information system, which can render the entire district unable to conduct the day-to-day business of educating students. AB 1023 would expand state support for school districts as they face this new reality.

Attendees also spoke to some of the challenges experienced by small school districts and asked legislators to support Senate Bill 645 (Ochoa-Bogh, R-Yucaipa), which addresses the small school district administrator-to-teacher ratio cap. Current law limits the number of administrators a school district may hire, which disproportionately impacts small school districts. This ratio has the unintended consequence of limiting many small school districts to just one administrator for the entire district. CSBA is sponsoring SB 645 to allow small school districts to hire the appropriate number of administrators based upon school size.

Members emphasized the imperative to stay focused on existing commitments to ensure successful implementation of recently adopted programs.

Members also highlighted the need to sustainably fund juvenile court schools and community schools operated by county offices of education (COEs) and urged their representatives to support AB 906 (Gipson, D-Carson). Because these programs are temporary placements for at-promise students, the existing attendance-based funding model is inadequate to properly support this vulnerable student population. CSBA is co-sponsoring AB 906 with the County Superintendents’ Association to invest in these high-quality programs and the students they serve by instead including funding for juvenile court and community schools in a COE’s base grant, providing them with sufficient and predictable resources.

“Our legislators care about our students and schools as much as we do,” said Marcy Masumoto, Fresno County Office of Education trustee and CSBA Region 10 Delegate. “Through CSBA’s Legislative Action Week, we have the potential for collective impact on the state budget and legislative policies that affect every student in California.”

As the legislative session continues and budget negotiations between the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom move forward, the local perspective and advocacy board members brought to Legislative Action Week will be pivotal in advancing CSBA’s agenda in the Capitol.