Special education, LCFF, student mental health
Special education, LCFF, student mental health, tobacco use highlight new legislation

As the usual crop of new bill introductions began its annual deluge at the Capitol, lawmakers in Sacramento spent the first few weeks of the 2020 legislative year hearing legislation held over from 2019 that faced a key January deadline.

On the K-12 education front, the Assembly in January declined to hear Assembly Bill 221 (Garcia, C., D-Bell Gardens), a CSBA-opposed bill that would have prohibited local educational agencies from contracting with a third-party organization to employ teachers, thereby negatively impacting the ability of LEAs to recruit and hire the most effective and most representative candidates available. The measure will not advance in 2020, as the bill was not heard prior to the Jan. 31 deadline for 2019 bills to be heard and passed by the house in which they were introduced.

CSBA is monitoring more than 300 bills introduced prior to the Feb. 21 deadline for the introduction of new legislative proposals, with CSBA’s Legislative Committee approving official positions on more than a dozen of those. Updated CSBA bill positions are available at www.csba.org/positions.

On Feb. 14, Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside) introduced AB 2291, a special education funding measure mirroring his AB 428 from 2019 that was held on the Assembly Appropriations Committee’s suspense file in August. After co-sponsoring AB 428 last year, CSBA has signed on as a co-sponsor of AB 2291, which would remedy several long-standing deficiencies in California’s special education finance system.

Among other things, AB 2291 would level-up base special education funding rates (pursuant to AB 602) to the 95th percentile; establish a funding formula within AB 602 for programs serving preschoolers with disabilities; provide additional funding for students with significant high-cost disabilities; and allow school districts to calculate a declining enrollment adjustment based on individual district average daily attendance instead of aggregated Special Education Local Plan Area ADA.

In January, Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) introduced a pair of measures intended to bolster transparency in Local Control Funding Formula spending and amend certain provisions regarding unspent LCFF funds. AB 1834 would require the California Department of Education to develop a tracking mechanism for LEAs (including charter schools) to report how supplemental and concentration grant funds are being spent, while AB 1835 would require unspent LCFF funds from the prior year to be devoted directly to serving unduplicated pupil counts, rather than be rolled into an LEA’s general fund.

Both AB 1834 and 1835 were introduced in response to last year’s report, “K–12 Local Control Funding” on LCFF spending from the California State Auditor. CSBA supports both bills and remains closely engaged in discussions with the author on provisions of the legislation.

A trio of bills, all similar in their current language and all supported by CSBA, have been introduced pertaining to excused absences for students grappling with mental and behavioral health issues. AB 1838 (Chu, D-San Jose), AB 1849 (Low, D-Campbell/Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton) and Senate Bill 849 (Portantino, D- La Cañada Flintridge) would allow students to take an excused absence for behavioral health reasons in the same way they would for a physical illness, helping to improve students’ abilities to seek treatment and to destigmatize student mental health issues.

Similar measures related to excused absences for mental health treatment were passed in Utah in 2017 and in Oregon last year, and have also been proposed in New York, New Mexico, New Jersey and Florida. It is estimated that as many as 1.8 million California students currently have a behavioral health condition.

CSBA is also supporting SB 793 (Hill, D-San Mateo), a bill that would combat tobacco use among young adults by prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes and similar vaping devices, as well as all flavored smokable and non-smokable tobacco products. While there is currently no state law restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products, more than 50 California local governments have already taken action to restrict youth access to flavored tobacco products. CSBA has also made available a sample resolution opposing the use and sale of e-cigarettes and electronic vaping devices. The resolution is available at www.csba.org/resolutions.

For additional news and information on 2019–20 legislation, visit www.csba.org/legislativenews.