Brown signs bill relaxing reserve fund limits

Brown signs bill relaxing reserve fund limits

(Calif.) Among the hundred signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, one will ease restrictions capping how much a district can save in their reserve budgets–a win for many schools which deemed the cap too limiting.

Other bills targeting school disciplinary practices were also approved. One, AB 1360, requires all charter schools to adopt nondiscriminatory suspension and expulsion policies that guarantee students appropriate due process, while AB 752 bars pre-schools from expelling children except for the most serious offences.

SB 751, authored by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, raises the reserve cap percentage from 6 percent to 10 percent, while also modifying the reserve cap trigger so it is significantly less likely that the cap would ever become active.

“This bill makes reasonable and appropriate changes to existing law to provide schools with adequate flexibility necessary to maintain fiscal solvency while simultaneously prioritizing the education of students they are currently serving,” Brown said in a signing message.

Specifically, the bill requires an accumulation of an amount equal to at least 3 percent of the Proposition 98 guarantee–$1.9 billion in the current year–before the trigger would be pulled.

Under existing law, districts are prohibited from keeping in reserve more than about 3 percent of their general fund. Under SB 751, schools could set aside up to 10 percent for future fiscal uncertainties.

According to Hill, provisions in the bill will better enable districts to protect themselves against economic downturns when budget cuts can have an adverse impact on students and teachers.

The new law takes effect January 1.

AB 1360, authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, makes changes to how charter schools operate. The bill prohibits discriminatory admissions practices but provides for due process proceedings in charter schools.

According to Bonta’s office, students with more significant needs students with disabilities–including English learners, low-income children and students of color–have been disproportionately suspended and expelled from charter schools, as research has also shown to be the case in traditional public schools.

Bonta said his bill, which was supported by the California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association, will ensure that charter school policies are clear, inclusive and provide a fair and just educational system for all students.

AB 752 by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, D-West Covina, would prohibit unnecessary expulsions of pre-school students by establishing a process by which schools must pursue and document reasonable steps taken to remedy a child’s bad behavior before suspending them. The bill also prohibited state preschool providers from expelling children except in the most serious circumstances.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education that showed almost 7,000 preschoolers were suspended during the 2013-14 school year, with African American children being almost 4 times more likely to be suspended from preschool than their white peers.

“Having taught for 16 years, I believe we need to ensure that all children are given a fair opportunity to succeed in their earliest school years,” Rubio said in a statement. "This bill will help the teacher, the students and the parents develop a plan to address the child’s behavioral challenges."

Other bills signed last week include:

AB 424, which updates the Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995 to remove a superintendent’s authority to provide written permission for a person to possess a firearm within a school zone, while exempting sanctioned shooting sports or activities from the prohibition as long as certain requirements are met;

AB 1124, which allows the education rights holder of a student enrolled in juvenile court school to voluntarily defer or decline the issuance of a diploma so that the student may take additional coursework either at the juvenile court school or, once released, at a traditional public school or continuation school; and

AB 365, which exempts students from military families from local graduation requirements and allows for acceptance of partial credit–both of which are currently afforded to other groups of highly mobile students, including those who are homeless or in foster care.