By Anita Avrick, Melanie Lucas and Beth Meyerhoff, California State PTA Education Advocates
The California State PTA takes positions on bills to improve the lives of children and families.
The Legislation Team reads hundreds of bills a year. The Legislation Action Committee then meets monthly between January and June to discuss and take positions on bills that fulfill our Mission Statement to “positively impact the lives of all children and families.”
During 2021, the Education advocates researched many bills affecting K-12 public school education, based on our authorities, which consist of our legislative planks, resolutions, and position statements. Although the bills listed below did not proceed through the full legislative process to reach Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk and were not signed into law, California State PTA continues to support the issues these bills address.
We hope that the legislature will again discuss these bills when they reconvene in January 2022.
Senate Bill 70 (Rubio). Elementary education: kindergarten
This bill would require that a student complete one year of kindergarten before being admitted to first grade. Students would begin first grade if they had their 6th birthday on or before September 1 and had completed one year of kindergarten.
Currently, Education Code Section 48200 requires every person between the ages of 6 and 18 years to attend school full-time. Students must be admitted to first grade if they have their 6th birthday on or before September 1.
According to the author, kindergarteners who miss 10% or more of school days have lower academic performance when they reach first grade. The impact is even greater for students who do not attend kindergarten at all.
AB 1444 (Buchanan, 2014) would have required a student to have completed kindergarten before being admitted to first grade. Governor Brown vetoed AB 1444, saying that he preferred to let parents determine what is best for their children rather than mandate an entirely new grade level.
The majority of eligible children in California do attend kindergarten, including approximately 95% of eligible students (public and private kindergarten) with 80% at a public school, as estimated by the Department of Education (CDE). According to the California Kindergarten Association, an estimated five- to seven percent of students do not enroll in kindergarten. (EdSource, March 3, 2021)
California PTA supports this bill because we believe that early learning is crucial, especially for our most vulnerable population. Making kindergarten mandatory will help those children who are most likely to fall behind due to the lack of early learning programs. Since kindergarten is optional, it can lead some families to believe that it is not important or that attendance is not essential.
Senate Bill 723 (Rubio). Pupil instruction: tutoring program: learning loss mitigation
Among the many challenges during distance learning is a rising opportunity gap. Senate Bill 723 would address learning loss and provide students with tutoring as a documented strategy to close opportunity gaps. The tutoring would be provided by college students and other pupils through the California Leadership, Excellence, Academic, Diversity, and Service-Learning Tutoring Program.
California State PTA supports legislation that can improve academic achievement for all students and eliminate the achievement gap. PTA believes it is important to provide all students with equal opportunity to learn and, when necessary, to provide access to appropriate intervention strategies and remediation programs for academic success.
Additional funding and support for this program was included in Assembly Bill 86 which appropriated $4.6 billion to provide support and tutoring by certificated or classified employees.
Assembly Bill 520 (Gipson). Teacher retention: California Diversifying the Teacher Workforce Grant Program
This bill would establish the California Diversifying the Teacher Workforce Grant Program to provide one-time competitive grants to develop and implement new or expand existing programs to develop and retain a diverse teacher workforce.
According to the author, California’s teaching force is significantly less racially and ethnically diverse than the student population. For example, according to the California Department of Education (CDE), 23% percent of K-12 students are white and 54% are Latino, while 63% of teachers are white and 20% are Latino. Assemblymember Gipson states, “Student success is amplified when they are taught by teachers who reflect the diversity of those students. In addition to academic benefits, students of color experience social-emotional gains to having teachers who look like them, also lessening the likelihood of chronic absenteeism and suspension.”
California State PTA has a resolution, TEACHER QUALITY: RECRUITMENT, RETENTION AND RESOURCES (2012), that supports “policies, programs, and practices that promote the recruitment, hiring and retention of well prepared, fully credentialed teachers.”
Assembly Bill 285 (Holden). State Department of Education: state school nurse consultant
AB 285 would require the State Department of Education to appoint an experienced state school nurse consultant with a minimum of 5 years of experience. The state school nurse would promote quality school programs to support the health needs of students.
California is one of 10 states without a school nurse official at the state level during the COVID-19 pandemic.
California State PTA supports legislation that encourages a greater number of school nurses in schools. Appropriate health services by credentialed nurses are vital to students, especially during this pandemic. A school nurse consultant at the state level will improve the health assistance and guidance our school districts can provide students.
Assembly Bill 299 (Villapudua). Career technical education: California Apprenticeship Grant Program
AB 299 would establish the California Apprenticeship Grant Program to provide grants to high school pupils, community college students, and employed and unemployed workers to enter career technical education and vocational professions through state-approved apprenticeships.
California State PTA supports continued and sufficient funding of School-to-Career education. We believe that apprenticeships give community college students not only additional funds for continuing their education but a step up on their career path.
Senate Bill 237 (Portantino). Special education: dyslexia risk screening
SB 237 would require the State Board of Education to establish an approved list of culturally, linguistically, and developmentally appropriate screening instruments to be used by schools to screen pupils for risk of dyslexia.
Local educational agencies (LEAs) would be required to annually screen all pupils in grades kindergarten through second grade for risk of dyslexia using the screening instruments approved by the State Board of Education. This bill would also require third-grade pupils to be screened during the initial year of implementation. LEAs would also be required to provide results to parents within 45 days of the screening. LEAs would be required to provide all pupils identified as being at risk of dyslexia with appropriate instruction, progress monitoring, and early intervention in the regular general education program.
According to the bill’s author, “Students with dyslexia are less likely to graduate from high school and attend college, and also experience higher rates of incarceration. In some prisons today, where nearly 80% of the inmates are illiterate, almost one-half of the inmates are on the dyslexia spectrum.
“Research evidence from multiple scientific studies is unequivocal: early identification and intervention with scientifically based early reading instruction strategies and materials improve literacy outcomes for students with dyslexia and other struggling readers.
“By screening all students for risk of dyslexia early, California can help families and teachers achieve the best learning and life outcomes for all students, close academic achievement gaps, and help end the school-to-prison pipeline.”
California State PTA strongly supports early screening for signs and symptoms of dyslexia and the use of appropriate accommodations to provide students with dyslexia equitable access to the general education curriculum as identified in the California State PTA Resolution, “Dyslexia: Addressing the Educational Implications in Public Schools.”