Key education bills face legislative deadline

Key education bills face legislative deadline

(Calif.) Bills that would increase funding for school transportation, career-technical education and implementation of new academic standards are among the many proposals facing scrutiny this week in advance of a key legislative deadline.

AB 631 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, would add $1 billion in state support for schools transitioning to Common Core State Standards.

SB 148, authored by Democratic Sen. Mike McGuire of Healdsburg, would establish the Career and Job Skills Education Act and expand to $600 million a CTE incentive grant program.

And, San Diego Democrat Sen. Marty Block’s SB 191 would increase state payments for school transportation funding over a seven year period in order to bring all districts to at least a 50-percent reimbursement level.

Budget and appropriations committees in both houses are considering hundreds of legislative proposals that, in order to move forward, must be approved by Friday.

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to hold the line on spending close to what he proposed in his revised May budget but lawmakers are interested in expanding services. In recent developments, legislative leaders appear to have embraced figures from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, which estimates the state will take in as much as $3.2 billion more in revenue this fiscal year than what the governor has projected.

While most of the additional income is legally directed to K-14 public education, both the Senate and Assembly are looking for ways to shift some spending around to free up general fund revenue.

In shepherding her AB 631 through the Assembly, Bonilla has pointed out that although the California Department of Education estimated several years ago that the cost of implementing Common Core would be upwards of $3 billion, only $1.25 billion has been dedicated to the work.

The Bonilla bill would establish the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards Implementation Fund but allows districts, charter schools and county offices of education to use the money on a variety of expenses, including teacher training; expanding technology-based instruction of Common Core-related curriculum; and buying new instructional materials linked to the Common Core.

The Concord lawmaker has noted that her bill would add to the $1.1 billion Brown earmarked in his January budget for Common Core expenses – money he has also counted as paying down a debt the state owes in claims from schools for mandated programs.

First-year costs for Block’s SB 191 are estimated at $150 million – an allocation that the author says will move all districts to at least a 41-percent reimbursement rate in 2015-16.

State contributions to the school transportation program have been frozen since 1982, and, as such, have become unequal, leaving rural and growing school districts with greater, unsubsidized costs. On average, the state pays districts 35 percent of their transportation costs but some districts receive as much as 80 percent reimbursement while others receive less than 10 percent.

According to a legislative analysis of SB 191, allocations would increase annually to approximately $250 million to $270 million by 2021-22.

Under McGuire’s SB 148, the CDE would be required to administer a grant program that distributes annual awards to LEAs that operate any state-approved CTE sequence of courses. Eligible LEAs include the governing board of one or more school districts, county offices of education, direct-funded charter schools or regional occupational centers or programs operated by joint powers authorities.

The legislation would require development of a system of accountability, data collecting, and reporting to ensure that goals of the CTE programs are met.

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