Gov. signs bills to reduce child poverty and suspension rates

Gov. signs bills to reduce child poverty and suspension rates

(Calif.) State lawmakers are poised to establish a new taskforce that will work to develop strategies to reduce the high rate of child poverty in the state under a bill signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

And under a separate set of bills signed by Brown Tuesday, school districts will need to inform students who are suspended of any previous attempts at behavior correction prior to the suspension referral; and the process to receive a California teaching credential will be expedited for military spouses with teaching credentials in other states.

AB 1520, authored by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Inglewood, aims to reduce the number of children living in poverty, which currently rests at about 2 million–the highest in the country.

“The Legislature has affirmatively established ending child poverty as a significant state priority,” Burke said in a statement. “By working collectively and collaboratively, we can help break the cycle of poverty that undercuts and hampers the life potential of millions of California children and devastates their hopes and aspirations to achieve their goals as teens and young adults in the future."

According to 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the overall poverty rate in California decreased 1 percent from the prior year to 14.3 percent, and the child poverty rate dropped from 21.2 percent to 19.9 percent–yet, as noted by the California Budget & Policy Center, those numbers remain above their pre-recession levels.

Child poverty rates vary significantly across racial and ethnic lines as well as counties. Santa Barbara County has the highest rate, at nearly 31 percent, while El Dorado County has the low of 13 percent, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Los Angeles County has a child poverty rate of 29 percent, while Sacramento County was slightly more than 19 percent.

Meanwhile, in 2014, Latino children in the state had a poverty rate of almost 31 percent, African American children a rate of 19 percent, Asian American children 13.5 percent, and white children had nearly 12 percent.

AB 1520 seeks to help lift an estimated one-million children in California out of poverty by providing a comprehensive framework for education, social service, economic, health care and human service programs and innovations.

The Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force established by the bill will be required to produce a report to Legislature by Nov. 1, 2018 that recommends comprehensive strategies to achieve the reduction of child poverty and deep poverty. The task force will consist of representatives from organizations and government agencies that focus on family and child well-being, as well as the reduction of child poverty and alleviation of family crises.

A second bill signed by Brown this week–AB 226 by Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Corona–will give the Commission on Teacher Credentialing seven days to consider applications of spouses of active United States Military service members if they hold a teaching credentialed from another state. According to the author’s office, the bill will remove unnecessary barriers to military spouses getting jobs in the classroom where they already have experience and training.

Meanwhile, AB 667, authored by Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-San Bernardino, requires that students receive a rundown of what other steps the school took prior to recommending suspension in an informal hearing. During the legislative session, advocates and legislators on both sides of the isle heralded the bill as a means of ensuring that suspension or expulsion is used as a last resort, and that other methods of correction are being pursued in advance of a decision to suspend a student from school.