PTA Perspective on Federal Infrastructure Bill

By Dianna McDonald, California State PTA Advocate

New laws around Infrastructure, jobs, and climate change will impact California’s children and families. California is due to receive about $45 billion dollars from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which became law in November of 2021. This will likely be for roads, bridges, and public transportation including California’s bullet train. There will also likely be several billion dollars set aside for improvements to our water system which is critical for our state.

The California State PTA urges our federal, state, and local governments to serve as role models for practices that promote energy conservation, alternative energy sources, reducing dependency on automobile travel, and encouraging sustainable practices. We believe that climate change is a children’s issue and  improving our transportation and water systems will have a long-term positive impact on the future of our children.

 A decision is still pending on the federal Build Back Better Act  which would fund a variety of services for children and families. National PTA has issued a formal statement urging passage of the measure.

Legislation Conference Strengthened My Confidence and Connections

By Kathryn Rickard, Student Board Member, California State PTA

When I look back and think about why I applied to become a student member of the California State PTA Board of Managers, I am reminded of the first state PTA Legislation Conference I attended.

Being at the Legislation Conference led me to apply for the Board of Managers because it was the first time I felt important, like my voice really mattered. At the Legislation Conference, you feel connected to other PTA leaders throughout the state. Having a network of connections is a big part of what PTA is all about, and after attending a Legislation Conference as a student, I realized that all PTA leaders want students to succeed. I also realized that despite being deeply involved in my own unit’s PTA, there was a lot more to learn about what PTA is and what PTA stands for. 

In my opinion, the most special aspect of the Legislation Conference is that students are welcome to attend. As a student, it’s not only important to understand what your role in PTA is but to also learn about how you can make a change. At the first Legislation Conference I attended, I got to meet Alex Padilla, California’s first Mexican-American United States Senator. Having the opportunity to meet someone of my heritage, that I can relate to in politics was enlightening and just one of the reasons why the Legislation Conference is so important to me. I think that it can have the same deep meaning to students across the state because when you attend, you can speak your mind, make your passions known, discuss your ideas with legislators, and truly make a difference.

Legislators want to hear from students. They care about what we have to say. Students are some of the most important people at the Legislation Conference because students are impactful. Students are our country’s future and through opportunities like the California State PTA Legislation Conference, students can step into their role as advocates for the health, safety, and well-being of all children. Most importantly, we can step into our role as advocates for our future.

Learn more about the California State PTA Annual Legislation Conference, here.

Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2021 (Thompson)

By Dianna MacDonald, California State PTA Legislative Advocate

For more than a century, California State PTA has advocated for safer schools. While gun violence is a public-health crisis that affects us all, it is of particular concern when it comes to the safety of our children and youth.  Deaths from gun violence are preventable. 

California State PTA supports state and federal legislation that protects all children and youth from gun violence. We base this on our position statement on Firearms and Assault Weapons, which was deemed relevant in 2018. 

In March 2021, California State PTA Legislation Action Committee voted to support House Resolution (HR)  8 – Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2021 (Thompson), which would establish new background check requirements for firearm transfers between private parties (i.e., unlicensed individuals). It specifically prohibits a firearm transfer between private parties unless a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer, or importer first takes possession of the firearm to conduct a background check. 

What is a universal background check?
A universal background check, conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), is required anytime a gun is purchased through a federally licensed gun dealer. 

What does the Federal Law currently require as far as licensed gun dealer background checks?
Current federal law requires licensed gun dealers to conduct a background check prior to completing a gun sale under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to prevent certain individuals, for example, those with histories of domestic abuse or violent felony convictions, from gun possession. After an individual submits to a background check, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has three days to conduct an investigation.

What does the Federal government require for private gun sales?
The Federal government currently does not legislate private sales, known as the private-sale loophole. Private sellers do not need to conduct a background check.

Does California require universal background checks?
In 1991, California required universal background checks for gun sales and transfers by authorized dealers. In 2006, California established a database for identifying firearm owners who fall into a prohibited status, such as violent crime conviction and drug offenses. In 2017, California voters approved Proposition 63 which required background checks for ammunition purchases and banned possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines. 

Does California legislate private gun sales?
Twenty-two states have legislated some categories of private sales. California is one of those states, requiring transfers between private parties be conducted through a licensed California dealer who must conduct a background check (Penal Code 28050).

What are other California gun laws?
California has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States with over 100 laws that restrict the manner in which firearms can be used. The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence awarded California in 2020 an “A” (one of only two awarded) for gun control laws which include bans on specific types of firearms and assault weapons (Penal Code 16590 and 30600) and limitations on bringing guns to certain locations, like schools (Penal Code 626.9). Effective July 1, 2021, California’s ban on purchasing more than one gun in a 30-day period was expanded to semi-automatic weapons (Senate Bill (SB) 61, Portantino).

Why is California State PTA supporting HR 8?
Gun violence is an epidemic, with more than one hundred Americans dying from gun violence every day, and twice as many shot and wounded. America’s gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than in other high-income countries and this violence directly affects the health and welfare of children and families across the country.

Advocates Plan to Continue Work on Several Education Bills

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.”

Multiple Bills Addressing Students’ Mental Health are Now Law

By Beth Meyerhoff, California State PTA Advocate

Fear and isolation heightened during the pandemic have reinforced California State PTA’s long-standing commitment to the mental health of children and the need for adult education to address youth mental health challenges. Our advocacy team applauds Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of a trio of bills to support the mental health needs of students. 

Senate Bill 14 (Portantino) mandates that student absences for mental and behavioral health are treated the same as excused absences for physical health.

Thirty percent of high school students report experiencing symptoms of depression and COVID-19 has further increased the mental health issues children face according to reports cited by Senator Portantino, the author of this bill.

Thanks to SB 14, behavioral health will now be included within the “illness categories” that are legally considered excused absences (Education Code Section 48205). In addition, the California Department of Education (CDE) must identify a training program to address youth behavioral health.

California State PTA believes behavioral health evaluation and services are critical for student development. We support providing information and education to understand and sustain children, youth, and family behavioral health and social-emotional development.

Senate Bill 224 (Portantino) requires middle and high schools to include instruction in mental health if the schools offer courses in health education.

For schools that offer health education courses, this bill requires that those courses include mental health instruction. The course shall cover symptoms of common mental health challenges, promoting mental health wellness, and how to find assistance from professionals, among other requirements. Additionally, it shall include developing an awareness of mental health challenges across all populations and “the impact of race, ethnicity and culture on the experience and treatment of mental health challenges.” The State Department of Education must develop a plan to expand mental health instruction in California public schools on or before January 1, 2024.

According to Senator Portantino’s office, “Education about mental health is one of the best ways to increase awareness, empower students to seek help, and reduce the stigma associated with mental health challenges.”

California State PTA supports age-appropriate social and emotional learning and mental health education for all students. As an advocacy organization, California State PTA supports legislation that creates a safe and accepting environment in schools. 

Assembly Bill 309 (Gabriel) requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to develop model referral protocols for addressing pupil mental health.

The development of model mental health protocols required by this bill would guide schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) in “appropriate and timely intervention for pupil mental health concerns.” The protocols will be posted on the CDE website and used on a voluntary basis.

The Assembly Bill analysis quoted the Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup which noted the connection between mental wellness and academic achievement, attendance, and behavior. The Workgroup also said California’s educators acknowledge their lack of preparedness in addressing pupil mental health challenges as a major barrier to instruction. 

California State PTA passed its resolution, Mental Health: Treatment and Support in 1999 (reviewed 2017), calling on “ the California State PTA and its units, councils and districts [to] urge that members of the education community and local law enforcement agencies receive training to ensure that peace officers and educators can recognize symptoms of mental illness and appropriately respond when dealing with persons, especially children, and youth, who show signs of mental illness.” 

In addition, at the 2020 California State PTA Convention, members passed a resolution Mental Health Service for Our Children and Youth to support mental health wellness and social-emotional learning policies, including staff training.

Governor’s Signature on AB 417 Supports College Access

By Beth Meyerhoff, California State PTA Education Legislative Advocate

College opportunities for incarcerated teens and adults increased significantly when Governor Gavin Newson signed Assembly Bill (AB) 417 (McCarty) into law on October 6, 2021. This bill establishes guidance on how to spend the $10 million (already allocated in California’s 2021-22 State Budget) for the Rising Scholars Network. The Rising Scholars Network Project, under the direction of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, mandates that community colleges increase community college course access and support for students transitioning from incarceration, or who have been “justice-involved.”

AB 417 authorizes 50 of California’s community colleges to join the Rising Scholars Network in order to increase the number of justice-involved students attending. The bill also requires reporting and recommendations on the possible expansion of the Rising Scholars Network to all community college districts and campuses.

Prior legislation (Senate Bill (SB) 1391, Hancock) created a pilot program of colleges offering instruction inside prisons. According to the bill analysis, over 5,000 students are enrolled each semester in these programs and 19 colleges piloted programs. According to a Rand Corporation report, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults, inmates are 43% less likely to recidivate after receiving correctional education.

California State PTA supports legislation which improves academic achievement for all students. We support efforts to study issues related to the system of juvenile justice and to work for reforms that will best meet the needs of youth in the juvenile justice system.

PTA strongly believes that every student who meets the established eligibility requirements must be allowed access to the appropriate level of California’s system of higher education; financial hardship should not prohibit eligible students from attending institutions of higher education and efforts should be made to provide financial assistance to students.

The Legislation Action team relied upon the following authorities to support AB 417:

ACHIEVEMENT: ELIMINATING THE GAP  http://downloads.capta.org/res/AchievementEliminatingTheGap.pdf

PTA has resolved to advocate for legislation and public policies that improve academic achievement for all students and eliminate the achievement gap.

JUVENILE JUSTICE REFORM – A PRIORITY http://downloads.capta.org/res/JuvenileJusticeReform-APriority.pdf

PTA has resolved to study issues related to the system of juvenile justice in California and work for reform that will best meet the needs of children and youth who come in contact with the Juvenile Justice System; and be it further

Position Statement:
Basic Education
http://toolkit.capta.org/advocacy/position-statements/basic-education/

California State PTA believes that all children and youth have the responsibility and should have the opportunity to develop their abilities to their fullest potential.

Position Statement: 
Higher Education
http://toolkit.capta.org/advocacy/position-statements/education-higher-education/

California State PTA believes that … investment in students’ postsecondary education enriches the lives of all Californians, and provides skilled workers to meet the needs of California’s global economy.

AB 856 Established Protocols for Safe Return to School

By Vinita Verma, California State PTA Community Concerns Legislative Advocate 

California State PTA supported Assembly Bill (AB) 856 (Maienschein) which was signed  by Governor Gavin Newsom in July.  The bill addressed the much-needed COVID era protocols for the safe return of students to exercise and physical activity after testing positive for or experiencing symptoms of, COVID-19. Validating the public’s right to information, the bill requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to post information on its website about the protocols for the safe return to school after a student contracts Covid. In addition, school districts will be encouraged to distribute this information. This law went into immediate effect for the health and safety of the public.

California State PTA supports legislation that prevents, controls, or eliminates hazards to the health, safety, and well-being of all children and youth. This bill provides important information for families and students. It safeguards the health of students who contracted or experienced symptoms of COVID-19. California State PTA acknowledges the need for science-based information and transparency to be available to all affected parties.

California State PTA relied on two legislative planks in supporting this legislation:

  • Legislative Plank #8 – To protect and improve the health of all families through the prevention, treatment, and control of disease; and 
  • Legislative Plank #11 – To prevent, control, or eliminate hazards to the health, safety, and well-being of all children and youth.

Additional Reading and Resources:

The American Academy of Pediatrics has published guidance for students’ safe return to sports and physical activity.  https://www.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/clinical-guidance/covid-19-interim-guidance-return-to-sports/

California State PTA has collected a variety of resources for parents and PTA leaders here: https://capta.org/news-publications/covid-19/

Senate Bill 796: A Step Closer to Historic Justice for a Southern California Family

By Beth Graves Meyerhoff, California State PTA Legislative Advocate

In a historic moment on September 30, 2011, the issue of reparations was addressed by Governor Gavin Newsom when he signed Senate Bill (SB) 796, authored by California State Senator Steven Bradford (D). SB 796 authorizes Los Angeles County to transfer two parcels of land to the descendants of Willa and Charles Bruce. The  property, located in Manhattan Beach, was wrongfully taken from its owners in the 1920s simply because of their race. 

Senator Bradford has been quoted as saying, “SB 796 represents economic and historic justice and is a model of what reparations can truly look like.” At the bill signing, Senator Bradford also said, “We’re returning what was rightfully theirs. It’s not a gift of public funds. They were denied generational wealth when the city took it from them.”

The Bruces purchased two beachfront parcels of property in 1912 for $1,225 and operated a seaside resort for African Americans at a time when beaches were segregated. In 1924, the property was taken by the city of Manhattan Beach through eminent domain to create a public park. The Bruce family received $14,500 for the parcels. The properties remained vacant until 1948 when they were given to the state and later transferred to Los Angeles County in 1995 to operate a lifeguard station.  

California State PTA believes that we must eradicate the negative impact of institutional racism and we must support systems and practices that are rooted in social justice to effectively serve the needs of children, youth, and families. The National PTA in a related position statement emphasized, “As an association that represents all children, we must listen, educate and advocate beyond rhetoric and rise to correct all inequities and injustices.” 

In his press release, Governor Newsom said, “As we move to remedy this nearly century-old injustice, California takes another step furthering our commitment to making the California Dream a reality for communities that were shamefully shut out by a history of racist exclusion. We know our work is just beginning to make amends for our past, and California will not shy from confronting the structural racism and bias that people of color face to this day.” 

The next step is for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to consider a motion for the county to accept the deed for the parcels in order for the county to return the two parcels of land to the Bruce family.

The California State PTA Legislative Action Committee considered these General Principles and Legislation Planks to support this legislation:

Additional reading about this legislation and the history of Bruce’s Beach: 

https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/bruce-s-beach-manhattan-beach-california-1920/

https://www.newyorker.com/news/us-journal/californias-novel-attempt-at-land-reparations

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-09-30/newsom-signs-law-to-return-bruces-beach-black-family

Learn How To Put Arts Education Into Your District Budget

LEARN HOW TO PUT ARTS EDUCATION INTO YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT BUDGET

Parents, students, and community advocates can help assure that arts education is part of their school district’s annual funding discussion. The state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is the key and you’re invited to a virtual workshop to learn more.

Join California State PTA, along with our partners Create CA, Arts for LA, and the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area, for Part 1 of a three-part series focused on the LCFF and how to be an informed arts education advocate. You’ll walk away knowing how to read and understand your school district’s Local Control & Accountability Plan (LCAP). You’ll learn about the tools you need to let your school leaders know that the arts are not optional. You’ll hear directly from a school board member and student representatives about promising practices for creating change in your district.

This free workshop takes place on Thursday, October 28, at 3:30 p.m. (Pacific Time). Click HERE to register.

California Supports Diversity with New Ethnic Studies Graduation Requirement

By California State PTA Legislation Team with the Health and Community Concerns and Education Commissions

With the governor’s signing of Assembly Bill (AB) 101 Ethnic Studies (Medina), California is the first state in the country to require that every high school student take an ethnic studies course in order to graduate. This bill, which was supported by California State PTA, requires schools to offer ethnic studies beginning with the 2025-26 school year and makes the one-semester ethnic studies course a graduation requirement beginning with the 2029-30 school year. 

Students must take a course that meets one of the following requirements:

  • A course based on the model curriculum, which was approved by the State Board of Education (SBE) in March 2021.
  • An existing ethnic studies course already offered at their high school.
  • A course that has been approved as meeting the A-G requirements for the University of California and the California State University.
  • A locally developed ethnic studies course approved by the school board or the governing body of the charter school.

The ethnic studies course requirement is important because it seeks to include voices that have not always been represented in instructional materials – voices of Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. Ethnic-studies advocates cite evidence that the inclusion of voices often omitted from traditional lessons and texts can lead to more student engagement and improved general academic performance. 

School districts can use the model curriculum, adopted on March 18, 2021, by the California State Board of  Education, as a guide to new instructional materials.  AB 101 also enables school districts to create their own lesson plans. As a result, the content of ethnic studies courses may vary from district to district. Many school districts in California such as Los Angeles Unified and Fresno Unified already have ethnic studies courses.

The new high school graduation requirement follows last year’s Assembly Bill 1460 signed by Governor Newsom which requires California State University students to take an ethnic studies course in order to earn their university degree. An ethnic studies course as a graduation requirement has already been vetoed twice: once by Governor Jerry Brown in 2018, who stated in his veto message that he was concerned about overwhelmed students and again in 2020 by Governor Newsom who vetoed the measure since the model ethnic studies curriculum had not yet been adopted.  

California State PTA supported this bill in order to provide the most comprehensive and diversified education possible for all children. Specifically, California State PTA supports curricula that develop an awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity designed to help students to develop personal worth and confidence in one’s own abilities. 

To Learn More About this Topic

The basis for PTA’s support of AB 101 includes:

Articles that provide more background and perspective: