Highlighting new education laws in California
The new year will ring in a wide array of new education laws in California. To familiarize board members with 2018 legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, CSBA has launched a weekly blog highlighting the laws and their impacts.
An overview of two new laws is provided below. Read the full blog posts at blog.csba.org.
The full What’s New for 2019 report on all new laws affecting K-12 education is also available at www.csba.org/whatsnewfor2019.
Assembly Bill 1248
Signed by the Governor on Sept. 27, Assembly Bill 1248 (Gloria, D-San Diego) clarifies that graduating students may wear traditional tribal regalia or recognized objects of religious or cultural significance as an adornment at school graduation ceremonies. CSBA opposed the bill until its language was amended to include protections for local control: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit a local educational agency’s discretion and authority to prohibit an item that is likely to cause a substantial disruption of, or material interference with, the ceremony,” the added language reads.

Prior to its amendments, AB 1248 was identical to Gloria’s bill from 2017, AB 233, which would have undercut local control by preventing school boards from establishing and enforcing graduation dress codes. “To the extent that there is a dispute about what a student can wear at school graduation ceremonies, I believe those closest to the problem — principals and democratically elected school boards — are in the best position to make wise judgments,” Gov. Brown said in his veto message of the CSBA-opposed AB 233 last year.

Moving forward, CSBA will seek amendments to the statute in 2019 that will balance the rights of students with the responsibilities of local educational agencies to maintain the focus on achievements that graduation ceremonies are designed to recognize. An amendment should clarify that the ability of students to wear religious adornments shall not be construed as a requirement for an LEA to allow the wearing of such adornments, which could be considered as an endorsement of a religious viewpoint by the public agency. Additionally, the law’s definition of “cultural” is still concerning to CSBA because it is unintentionally broad and may limit school boards and administrators the flexibility and discretion they need at the local level.

Assembly Bill 2160
This legislation is considered “technical cleanup” and pertains to a 2017 law that amended Education Code section 45103 to include part-time playground employees as part of the classified service, effective Jan. 1, 2018. AB 2160 (Thurmond, D-Richmond), applies the same rules to the approximately 90 school districts/county offices of educations using the merit system by changing Education Code section 45256. Those LEAs were unintentionally left out of 2017’s AB 670. A list of LEAs in the merit system (similar to the civil service) is available through the California School Personnel Commissioners Association website at www.meritsystem.org/District.

CSBA opposed AB 670 due to its significant fiscal impact on school districts already experiencing steep increases in employee costs such as pensions and health care. The follow-up bill, AB 2160, is intended to ensure all playground aides working in K-12 schools and community colleges, including merit districts, are included in classified service and receive the same rights and protections as classified employees.

The language of AB 2160 is also slightly differently than AB 670, exempting part-time playground positions in merit districts from probationary status, effective Jan. 1, 2019, when the positions will be recategorized into classified service. Existing part-time playground employees in merit districts will therefore become permanent classified employees on that date. The new law also provides immediate permanent status for part-time playground employees in non-merit districts who are made part of the classified service, which AB 670 did not.

Because AB 2160 likely impacts collective bargaining agreements, affected LEAs are advised to seek the advice of general counsel.