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:

Protecting Kids from the Academic Impact of a Lost Year

By Mary Perry, California State PTA Board of Managers

For many California children, the 2020-21 school year was a time of lost potential as one fourth of families did not have a high-speed internet connection and thousands of students did not even enroll in school. In June, Assembly Bill 104 (Gonzalez) was adopted as an emergency measure to support parents and help them protect their students from some of those impacts.

According to a press release from the bill’s author, San Diego Democrat Lorena Gonzalez, AB 104 goes into effect immediately and allows parents of students who fell behind during the last year to pursue a number of learning recovery options before the next school year begins.” California State PTA supported the bill. 

Three key things parents can do

Thanks to this newly passed emergency measure, families have several options for helping students make up for lost instructional time. Each has a specific timeline and requires that parents and students take the initiative to communicate with school officials. When state guidance refers to Local Education Agencies, or LEAs, it includes school districts, charter schools and county offices of education.  

  • Change a “D” or “F” grade to Pass/No Pass

This option requires fast action! Students enrolled in high school in the 2020–21 academic year may apply to have any letter grade replaced with a pass or no pass grade. The CA Department of Education has prepared a form that LEAs will use for this request and should have already posted on their website. In addition, they should post this list of the UC campuses and private universities that have agreed to accept transcripts with these changes. AB 104 required that all California State University (CSU) campuses accept the pass/no pass grades as well. After the LEA has posted this information and provided written notice, students have 15 days to file their grade change request.

  • Retain a student in their previous grade

This option is for students who were in any of grades kindergarten to 11th grade in 2020-21 and successfully finished less than half of their course work. Parents must file a written request with their Local Education Agency to have their student retained in the same grade for another year. The LEA, in turn, must schedule a consultation with the parent within 30 days of that request. The LEA makes the final decision on the request and must notify the parent within 10 days of the consultation. Most LEAs already have a form they use for parents related to grade retention. You should contact your school principal or district office for more information.

  • Exempt a student from local graduation requirements 

Students enrolled in their third or fourth year of high school in 2020-21 and who are not on track to graduate in four years must be offered some options. One option is to exempt them from all coursework and other requirements adopted by the LEA that are in addition to the statewide coursework requirements, which are fewer than most districts require. If necessary, LEAs must also provide these students the opportunity to complete the statewide coursework required for graduation, which may include offering a fifth year of instruction or credit recovery. Here is a quick comparison of the statewide requirements and those that make a student eligible for UC or CSU admission.

This EdSource article, part of their July 26 news update, provides additional background about AB 104. For deeper background related to education, PTA advocacy, health, community concerns, and family engagement, visit the Focus Areas section of the CA State PTA website

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Advocacy Agenda for Equity 2021

California State PTA believes that all children deserve a quality education regardless of the community in which they live, the color of their skin, their language, their gender identity, or their immigration status.

But too many California students from underserved communities are deprived of an equal opportunity to learn. This year we created an equity agenda to address the needs of all of our children. The bills the California State PTA supports are listed below by category.

Poverty, Income, and Racial Inequality

PTA seeks legislation to address poverty, and the income and racial inequities that affect millions of California families.

  • AB 27 (Rivas, Luz D) Homeless children and youths and unaccompanied youths: reporting.
  • AB 57 (Gabriel D) Law enforcement: hate crimes.
  • AB 367 (Garcia, Cristina D) Menstrual products.
  • AB 408 (Quirk-Silva D) Homeless children and youths: reporting.
  • AB 742 (Calderon D) Personal income taxes: voluntary contributions: School Supplies for Homeless Children Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund.
  • AB 1006 (Rubio, Blanca D) Foster care: social worker turnover workgroup.
  • SB 17 (Pan D) Office of Racial Equity.
  • SB 100 (Hurtado D) Extended foster care program working group.
  • AB 14 (Aguiar-Curry D) Communications: broadband services: California Advanced Services Fund.
  • AB 775 (Berman D) Public postsecondary education: basic needs of students.
  • SB 4 (Gonzalez D) Communications: California Advanced Services Fund: deaf and disabled telecommunications program: surcharges.
  • SB 532 (Caballero D) Pupil instruction: high school coursework and graduation requirements: exemptions.
  • SB 682 (Rubio D) Childhood chronic health conditions: racial disparities.
  • AB 37 (Berman D) Elections: vote by mail ballots.
  • AB 546 (Maienschein D) Dependent children: documents: housing.
  • AB 656 (Carrillo D) Child welfare system: racial disparities.
  • SB 274 (Wieckowski D) Local government meetings: agenda and documents.
  • AB 34 Muratsuchi D Broadband for All Act of 2022.
  • AB 256 Kalra D Criminal procedure: discrimination.
  • SB 79 Bradford D State parks: state beaches: County of Los Angeles: Manhattan State Beach: deed restrictions.

Early Learning

PTA supports quality childcare, pre-school and early learning for all children.

  • AB 22 (McCarty D) Childcare: preschool programs and transitional kindergarten: enrollment: funding.
  • AB 92 (Reyes D) Preschool and childcare and development services: family fees.
  • AB 321 (Valladares R) Childcare services: eligibility.
  • AB 393 (Reyes D) Early Childhood Development Act of 2020.
  • AB 1361 (Rubio, Blanca D) Childcare and developmental services: preschool: expulsion and suspension: mental health services: reimbursement rates.
  • SB 50 (Limón D) Early learning and care.
  • SB 725 (Ochoa Bogh R) Early childhood education: parent participation preschool programs.

Health and Welfare

Physical, social, emotional, and mental health needs must be met before students can thrive.

  • AB 452 (Friedman D) Pupil safety: parental notification: firearm safety laws.
  • SB 260 (Wiener D) Climate Corporate Accountability Act.
  • SB 699 (Eggman D) School climate: statewide school climate indicator: surveys.
  • AB 285 (Holden D) State Department of Education: state school nurse consultant.
  • AB 967 (Frazier D) Special education: COVID-19 Special Education Fund.
  • SB 224 (Portantino D) Pupil instruction: mental health education.
  • SB 237 (Portantino D) Special education: dyslexia risk screening.
  • SB 722 (Melendez R) Interscholastic athletics: adult supervisors: cardiopulmonary resuscitation training.
  • AB 234 (Ramos D) Office of Suicide Prevention.
  • AB 270 (Ramos D) Core Behavioral Health Crisis Services System.
  • AB 309 (Gabriel D) Pupil mental health: model referral protocols.
  • AB 586 (O’Donnell D) Pupil health: health and mental health services: School Health Demonstration Project.
  • AB 988 (Bauer-Kahan D) Mental health: mobile crisis support teams: 988 crisis hotline.
  • AB 1117 (Wicks D) Pupil support services: Healthy Start: Toxic Stress and Trauma Resiliency for Children Program.
  • AB 1165 (Gipson D) Juvenile facilities: storage and use of chemical agents and facility staffing.
  • AB 1197 (Quirk-Silva D) School meals: nutritional requirements.
  • SB 14 (Portantino D) Pupil health: school employee and pupil training: excused absences: youth mental and behavioral health.
  • SB 21 (Glazer D) Specialized license plates: mental health awareness.
  • SB 217 (Dahle R) Comprehensive sexual health education and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention education.
  • SB 364 (Skinner D) Pupil meals: Free School Meals For All Act of 2021.
  • AB 48 (Gonzalez, Lorena D) Law enforcement: kinetic energy projectiles and chemical agents.

Education Funding

California’s school finance system must provide stable, sustainable, equitable, and adequate funding to meet the diverse needs of all our students, including before and after-school programs, summer school, and distance learning.

  • AB 99 (Irwin D) Statewide longitudinal data system: California Cradle-to-Career Data System: governance and support.
  • AB 1112 (Carrillo D) Before and after school programs: maximum grant amounts.
  • SB 737 (Limón D) California Student Opportunity and Access Program.
  • AB 75 (O’Donnell D) Education finance – School facilities: Kindergarten-Community Colleges Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2022.
  • SB 22 (Glazer D) Education finance- School facilities: Public Preschool, K–12, and College Health and Safety.

Teaching

PTA supports the recruitment and development of an educator workforce that is reflective of the student population, and that all students have qualified and effective teachers delivering a full curriculum.

  • AB 312 (Seyarto R) Teacher credentialing: basic skills proficiency test: exemption.
  • AB 437 (Kalra D) Teacher credentialing: subject matter competence.
  • AB 520 (Gipson D) Teacher retention: California Diversifying the Teacher Workforce Grant Program.
  • SB 237 (Portantino D) Special education: dyslexia risk screening.

Curriculum

Instruction should be personalized, culturally relevant, and responsive.  Coursework must address racism and bias to counteract the institutional and structural biases and related traumas that often drive inequitable outcomes for students.

  • AB 101 (Medina D) Pupil instruction: high school graduation requirements: ethnic studies.
  • AB 104 (Gonzalez, Lorena D) Pupil instruction: retention, grade changes, and exemptions.
  • AB 299 (Villapudua D) Career technical education: California Apprenticeship Grant Program.
  • AB 839 (O’Donnell D) Career technical education: California Career Technical Education Incentive Grant Program.
  • ACR 49 (Choi R) Arts Education Month.
  • SB 545  (Wilk R) Pupil retention: COVID-19 impact.
  • SB 628 (Allen D) California Creative Workforce Act of 2021.
  • SB 723 (Rubio D) Pupil instruction: tutoring program: learning loss mitigation.
  • SB 70 (Rubio D) Elementary education: kindergarten.
  • AB 366 (Rubio, Blanca D) Foster youth.

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Will There be More Money for Schools Next Year? Let’s See…

The headlines say California schools will get billions of dollars of new funding next year under Prop 98 which guarantees schools about 40% of the state budget.

This is great news. But it is only part of the financial picture, because last year schools lost billions of dollars of funding under Prop. 98.

We are at the start of a new budget cycle that projects how much money California will have next year, in this case 2021-22. This includes “guestimates” as to whether schools will get more money or less. Here is a quick look at how this works:

  • In November, the independent legislative analyst reports on the State’s fiscal outlook.
  • In January, the Governor releases his proposed budget, which is usually based on slightly different financial projections from the Department of Finance.
  • In May, the Budget Proposal is revised, based on the most recent economic projections.
  • In June, a final budget is adopted for the next year, starting July 1.

Just to make this a bit more complicated, schools have a special procedure in the budget called “settle up”. When the budget is adopted, there is a projection as to how much schools should get under Prop. 98. If that guess is wrong, and it usually is not quite right because it is hard to guess the future, then next year’s budget corrects this through the settle up. Schools get more money if last year’s budget projection was too low.

That’s what is happening now. The Legislative analyst report in November estimates the minimum Proposition 98 guarantee will increase by more than $13 billion for the current year, 2020–21. This is because tax receipts were higher than anticipated. This is a one-time windfall.

In upcoming years, Prop. 98 school funding is projected to have only a modest increase.

Budget Magic

Last year, based on what was known in May of 2020, the state did not have enough money in Prop. 98 to keep education funding from dropping. So as part of its budget adoption for 2020-21, it included money it hoped to get from the federal government because of the pandemic. Well, that extra money did not happen.

Deferrals: The fallback position was something called “deferrals.” If the federal government did not come through with funding help for schools, the state would have to delay about $12 billion in payments owed to local school districts. (This means school districts would have to meet their ongoing expenses by digging into reserves or borrowing.) The state planned to send schools that $12 billion as the first part of their 2021-22 funding.

Supplemental payments: Even with deferrals, the education budget was so low in 2020-21 that the state also promised to give education extra money from the general fund in 2021-22 to keep education protected.

Where are we now?

Many education advocates and the legislative analyst are recommending that deferrals be eliminated in the current year so schools get the money they are owed on time. This would use up most of the $13 billion in projected new revenue.

We still don’t know, however, what will happen to state revenues for the rest of the current year as the state builds its budget for next year. Will the picture look better or worse?

And what should happen to those supplemental payments promised to schools in the coming years? Schools certainly need the money. But so does the general fund, which pays for lots of programs that support children and families. General fund deficits are projected to grow by a substantial amount in future years given the costs created by the pandemic, the impact on various parts of the state’s economy, and the costs of such extraordinary events as this year’s wildfires. The new Legislature may also have its own ideas about how important it is to fund schools at something beyond the minimum guarantee.

This article is based on information from Ed100 on how the state budget works.