CSBA advocacy helps defeat school start time bill

But it’s one of several bills poised to re-emerge in 2019


he 2018 legislative year, like all others, carried with it several critical bills with significant implications for K-12 education in California — all of which you can read more about in CSBA’s “What’s New for 2019” report at 
www.csba.org/whatsnewfor2019 and on CSBA’s blog (blog.csba.org).

As the session was drawing to a close in mid-August, this year’s waters felt relatively calm as compared to previous years, with no real signs of cataclysmic waves on the horizon.

Well, that didn’t last long.

The final days of the session were marked by the re-emergence of Senate Bill 328 (Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge), the school start time bill, which had been dormant on the Assembly Floor since failing passage in September 2017, when it came up 15 votes shy of the 41 needed for passage.

The bill was granted reconsideration on Aug. 16 and was heard again in the Assembly on Aug. 31, the final day of the session — this time passing with the necessary 41 “Aye” votes. After concurrence in the Senate, the bill was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, forcing him to consider a mandated 8:30 a.m. or later start for every non-rural middle and high school in the state.

With the possible exception of the school district reserve cap saga, no other issue in recent memory went right to the core of local school board governance. SB 328 carried with it myriad unintended consequences, which would have adversely affected students and families throughout the state.

CSBA stepped up its advocacy efforts in favor of local control, using email campaigns to mobilize hundreds of school and county board members and superintendents to urge the Governor to veto the bill. In addition, hundreds of concerned parents and members of the public contacted Gov. Brown’s office to ask him to preserve local decision-making authority and veto the bill in response to CSBA’s mid-September radio ads — all leading to a veto on Sept. 20. The message from school board members was clear: the opposition to SB 328 was not opposition to later start times, but to a statewide one-size-fits-all mandate on the issue.

“Several schools have already moved to later start times. Others prefer beginning the school day earlier. These are the types of decisions best handled in the local community,” Gov. Brown said in his veto message.

The bill’s author has already publicly declared his intent to reintroduce the bill when the new legislative sessions convenes in early January. Indeed, “new session” (and “new governor”) is very much the mindset throughout the Capitol as the start of the new two-year 2019–20 legislative session looms.

Charter schools

In this issue of California Schools, you can read more about CSBA’s Charter School Task Force and its areas of legislative focus and recommendations from its new report, Uncharted Waters.

In positive 2018 news on the charter school front, the long-running issue of for-profit charter schools was put to rest when Gov. Brown signed the CSBA-supported Assembly Bill 406 (McCarty, D-Sacramento), prohibiting California charter schools from being operated by a for-profit entity or operating as a for-profit enterprise. However, once more falling in the “close but no cigar” column was the latest effort to require charter school adherence to the Brown Act, California Public Records Act, Political Reform Act of 1974 and Government Code 1090.

While it appeared that there was broad support for the CSBA co-sponsored AB 276 (Medina, D-Riverside) as it moved forward, there ultimately emerged a lack of consensus over specific provisions of the bill — specifically, the definition of a charter management organization Without all parties on board, serious doubts were cast over whether Gov. Brown would sign it (similar bills have been vetoed by two governors in recent years), and the bill was moved to the inactive file. This issue will re-emerge in 2019.

“Several schools have already moved to later start times. Others prefer beginning the school day earlier. These are the types of decisions best handled in the local community.”

— Gov. Jerry Brown

LCFF funding measure stalls

Also potentially set to return in 2019 is AB 2808 (Muratsuchi, D-Torrance), another CSBA co-sponsored measure that was disappointingly shelved, likewise over possible concerns that Gov. Brown would not sign it. The bill was passed by the Assembly but, at the request of the author, not brought back before the Assembly for a concurrence vote.

As amended in August, AB 2808 expressed the intent of the Legislature to “enact legislation providing that, beginning in the 2019–20 fiscal year, the state shall begin to provide increases to the LCFF and fund California K–12 public schools at a level that is equal to, or above, the average of the top 10 states nationally by 2025 and, at a minimum, to maintain this level of funding indefinitely.”

This language likely sounds familiar — it aligns very closely with CSBA’s messaging in the ongoing push for Full and Fair Funding. However, the original version of the bill had much more bite, as it would have increased the size of the LCFF base grant targets moving forward, tying the higher amounts to the national average in per-pupil funding. That original version of the bill and the efforts to increase the targets could be reintroduced in 2019.

School impact fees, accessory dwelling units

At one point during this legislative session, there were three bills authored by legislators representing ground zero of California’s housing crisis — SB 831 (Wieckowski, D-Fremont), SB 1469 (Skinner, D-Berkeley) and AB 2890 (Ting, D-San Francisco) — each pertaining to accessory dwelling units, more commonly known as “granny flats” or “in-law units.” These bills would have prohibited local educational agencies from collecting school impact fees for the construction of new ADUs — an effort relatively well-intentioned to encourage development of housing supply, but that would significantly reduce an important source of revenue that LEAs depend on to meet their facilities needs.

None of the three bills made it through to the Governor: AB 2890 was amended to remove references to school impact fees (allowing CSBA to remove its opposition); SB 831 and SB 1469 were held in Assembly Local Government and Senate Appropriations, respectively. While there are no official indications that this issue will re-emerge, it remains one that CSBA will monitor closely, as housing figures to remain a big issue when the new legislative session begins.

On-campus medical cannabis

“I think we should pause before going much further down this path,” Gov. Brown said in his veto message on SB 1127 (Hill, D-San Mateo), which would have allowed a parent or guardian to administer medical cannabis in a non-smoking and non-vaping form (oils, capsules, tinctures, etc.) to their child on school grounds if the child is a qualified cannabis patient with a doctor’s recommendation. CSBA supported SB 1127 as an important step to ensuring that children who rely on medical marijuana can receive their medication during the school day in a non-disruptive manner — an issue that figures to re-emerge in 2019, along with a host of other related policy considerations as legalized marijuana in California enters its second year.

What will 2019 bring?

California will have a new governor for the first time in eight years, with Gavin Newsom set to move across the hall and into the Governor’s office. In trying to pinpoint how the landscape of education policy will be shaped under a new administration, there are currently several questions, but few real answers.

Will the new governor support a statewide mandate on school start times if such a bill again reaches his desk? Will he be the one to sign a bill requiring charter schools to abide by the same transparency laws as traditional public school districts? Would he be willing to increase the LCFF targets as a starting point toward full and fair funding?

As always, school and county board members statewide will play a key role in helping Governor-elect Newsom answer those questions.