Panel trims the list of ed. bills moving forward

Panel trims the list of ed. bills moving forward

(Calif.) Bills seeking to make suspension policies more transparent, to streamline credentialing for military spouses and, to expand parental notification requirements for student English language proficiency have all likely failed to advance in action Monday before the Senate Education Committee.

Each bill was sent to the Senate fiscal committee’s suspense file Monday with little to no discussion between committee members or public comment. And with the end of California’s legislative session quickly approaching, it is unlikely any of the bills will be picked up again.

One of the bills–a bipartisan effort introduced by Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-San Bernardino–would have required that before a student can be suspended school officials must conduct an informal conference where the child is specifically explained of previous attempts at behavior correction had failed, resulting in the need for  suspension.

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.

“Given California’s attendance crisis, transparency around this issue is critical,” Reyes said in a statement. “AB 667 ensures students are notified of other means of correction attempted and provides clarity around suspension procedures.”

Reyes’ bill was part of a trio of bills introduced in both the Senate and Assembly this session that sought to create a more transparent disciplinary process for students at risk of being suspended from school. According to Reyes’ office, an estimated 210,000 students 11 years old and younger missed 10 percent of the school year in 2015-2016–an issue that is only exacerbated when suspension is used as a primary tool for disciplining students.

Moves to restructure disciplinary policies have been driven by state and federal reports that link suspension and expulsion to rates to high dropout rates, increased likelihood of contact with the juvenile justice system, and poor attendance and academic achievement. Many of the same studies also note that higher suspension rates tend to disproportionately affect children of color or those with disabilities.

In California, current law requires that a student be told why they are being disciplined, as well as the evidence against him or her at an informal conference. Students must also be given the opportunity to present their side of the story and provide evidence in their defense at the time of the conference.

AB 667 would have required that, at the same time, students receive a rundown of what other steps the school has taken prior to recommending suspension.

A second bill sent to the suspense file Monday would have given 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.

A survey of military families conducted by the United States Department of Defense found that more than 1 in 20 military spouses are K-12 teachers, and about 1 in 100 military spouses are post-secondary teachers. While many military spouses are already qualified to teach and have classroom experience, the sometimes lengthy process of earning a California credential often acts as a disincentive at a time when the state is in dire need of more educators.

“The different credentialing requirements imposed by each state for teachers often provide unnecessary barriers to military spouses getting jobs,” Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Corona, the bill’s author, said in a statement. “AB 226 will expedite the process for military spouses in California for receiving their teaching credentials in order to help them find meaningful and rewarding work as teachers.”

Other bills that did not move out of the Senate appropriations committee include AB 365, which would have extended certain rights to exemptions from local graduation requirements and acceptance of partial credit currently afforded to groups of highly mobile students such as foster youth to students from military families who are often forced to uproot and relocate when a parent is stationed elsewhere.

AB 81, which sought to expand parental notification requirements regarding the assessment of a student’s English language proficiency, also failed to move out the fiscal committee. The bill would have better prevented students from being misclassified as a long-term English learner upon initial enrollment at a school, according to the author’s office.