Slew of new bills introduced in 2021–22 legislative session
Several bills return from 2019–20 session, including broadband infrastructure legislation
The 2021–22 legislative session is off to a busy start, with more than 550 bills already introduced for consideration in the California Senate and Assembly. After a 2020 session sharply curtailed by closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s docket will undoubtedly be crowded as legislators revive old bills and unveil new proposals to take on the challenges of a new year.

Even as Gov. Gavin Newsom’s January budget proposal rides better-than-expected revenues to provide a full cost-of-living adjustment of 3.84 percent, erase most apportionment deferrals and maintain an additional year of employer pension rate buydowns, school reopening remains top of mind in Sacramento. Gov. Newsom’s Safe Schools for All proposal is now under consideration for early action as the Senate and Assembly begin work on the 2021–22 budget process. CSBA and many stakeholders, as well as members of the Senate and Assembly, have pushed back on the Governor’s plan, which will require legislative approval before being put into action. Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) has also introduced Assembly Bill 10, which would require schools to publicly present a plan to resume in-person learning within two weeks of their county moving into red, orange or yellow tiers, beginning March 1, 2021. Districts would be able to choose whether to return to all in-person learning or use a hybrid model, and local educational agencies in non-purple counties would still maintain the authority to determine when to provide in-person learning during the 2020–21 school year, how that learning is provided and how long it is provided.

While the Governor’s January budget proposal failed to include funds for addressing the digital divide, it’s clear that with millions of California students still in distance learning the Legislature will be making broadband access a priority in the new session. AB 14, introduced by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar Curry (D-Winters), would extend the ongoing collection of funds deposited into the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to provide communities with grants to bridge the digital divide. Similarly, Sen. Lena Gonzalez’s (D-Long Beach) Senate Bill 4 would also extend the collection of CASF surcharge funds, make communities eligible for grants based on their true internet need, and promote deployment of high-speed broadband. The bill would additionally create the Broadband Bond Financing Securitization Account to fund costs related to broadband bond financing and securities, including the deployment of infrastructure by local governments or nonprofits. Also aimed at increasing the available funding for broadband expansion is Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi’s (D-Torrance) AB 34, which would ask voters to approve a general obligation bond measure of up to $10 billion in November 2022. If approved, the bond would fund increased access to broadband services to Californians in unserved or underserved rural, urban, suburban and tribal communities.

Facilities funding for schools is also on the table, with Assembly Education Chair Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) introducing AB 75, the Kindergarten-Community Colleges Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2022. This proposal, if passed would place a bond measure on the ballot in 2022 to fund the construction and modernization of education facilities. Legislators will also be considering a second bond measure, SB 22, introduced by Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), which would ask voters to approve the Public Preschool, K–12, and College Health and Safety Bond Act of 2022 to provide $15 billion in funding for education facilities construction and modernization.

Early childhood programs continue to be a priority for the Legislature as well. Sen. Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara) has introduced SB 50, which would establish the California Early Learning and Care Program to “create a seamless, integrated, mixed-delivery, whole-child, 2-generation early learning and care system from birth to school age” and advance the state’s Master Plan for Early Learning and Care. Meanwhile, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) has once again introduced a proposal to establish a universal Transitional Kindergarten program. AB 22 would accomplish this by expanding the existing program to include all 4-year-olds in the state.

Also returning this year is Assemblymember Jose Medina’s (D-Riverside) proposal to add ethnic studies to the state graduation requirements. As with last year’s AB 331, which was passed by the Legislature but ultimately vetoed by Gov. Newsom, AB 101 would require students to complete a one-semester course in ethnic studies before graduating. The requirement would begin with students who will graduate in the 2029–30 school year, and schools would be required to offer ethnic studies courses starting in 2025–26.

As of this writing, legislators still have over a month remaining before the bill introduction deadline of Feb. 22. CSBA’s Legislative Committee began meeting in January and will continue to meet to review newly introduced bills and adopt official positions as the session moves forward. Undoubtedly, many more bills of interest to California schools will be introduced in the coming weeks, as major issues such as the question of school liability during the COVID-19 crisis and revenue-raising proposals remain unresolved.

Visit the Advocacy section of CSBA’s website for the latest legislative information.