Leg. panel kills emergency teacher shortage bill

Leg. panel kills emergency teacher shortage bill

(Calif.) A handful of controversial bills related to the teacher shortage, school start times and restrictions on parents who are registered sex offenders saw their last day for this legislative session on Monday.

Members of the California Senate appropriations committee moved quickly through the more than 170 bills yesterday, sending many to the suspense file with little to no discussion.

Although lawmakers can take a vote on these measures at a later date, the May 26 deadline for fiscal committees to move fiscal bills to the full floor of the Senate or Assembly is rapidly approaching, and a second vote on those sidelined Monday is unlikely.

SB 533, authored by Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada-Flintridge, would have allowed the governor to declare a “state of need” because of the teacher shortage. Such a declaration would permit districts to employ teachers that do not have valid credentials, but who would get support and training from the hiring district.

The bill received a split vote in the Senate education committee, and early opposition from the California Teachers Association as well as low-income family advocacy groups, who argued that the bill would lead to more non-credentialed serving students who are already at a disadvantage.

As many as 75 percent of school districts in California report having some level of shortage in classroom teachers and resorting to hiring instructors that are not yet fully credentialed or have substandard permits, according to a report issued by the Learning Institute in February.

Data from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the state Legislature and the Learning Policy Institute show that while enrollment in teacher preparation programs in the state jumped 10 percent in 2013-14, the number of new credentials issued in 2014-15 was just a 1.6 percent increase from the prior year.

Portantino noted that a declaration from the governor would not solve the teacher shortage problem across the state, which he said was the result of insufficient pay, low retention rates and high numbers of long-time educators reaching retirement.

“Attracting and keeping quality teachers in California classrooms is a constant challenge,” according to Portantino’s office. “With about a third of the teaching force nearing retirement, the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning estimates that California will need an additional 100,000 teachers over the next decade.”

Those in favor of having the fewest restrictions possible on local control as possible are likely to applaud the demise of SB 328, also authored by Portantino.

SB 328 sought to prohibit middle and high schools from starting the regular school day before 8:30 a.m. The bill was at the center of a heated debate when it was previously heard by the Senate education committee–Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, and other members voiced concerns in taking the option away from local school boards to maintain an earlier start time.

Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that implementing later start times leads to improved academic success in nearly every subject and higher rates of school attendance.

Opponents of the bill, which included the California School Boards Association and the California Teachers Association, said at the time that while the science backing SB 328 was compelling, the time restriction would be logistically impossible to meet for some schools.

Another bill that faced blowback in policy committees before stalling in the appropriations committee was SB 26, authored by Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino.

Leyva’s bill would have limited campus activities of parents identified as sex offenders, such as volunteering. The bill would have prohibited anyone from visiting a school campus if convicted of a violent sexual offence.

Senators Allen and Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, said they wanted to ensure that people who don’t need to be aren’t inadvertently caught up by the bill, and other opponents argued that SB 26 raised potential Constitutional issues, and could even further stigmatize children whose parent is on the sex registry.

One of the relatively few bills that did dodge the appropriation committee’s suspense file was SB 583, authored by Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Riverside County, which could require students take a course on financial literacy in order to graduate.

Prompted by an idea from a student who won the Stone’s annual “There Ought to be a Law” competition, the bill would ensure high school graduates can balance a checkbook and understand the benefits of credit cards as well as the negatives.

“So many of our young people enter the job market or head off to college without the necessary financial tools they need,” Stone told committee members.  “As a result, many run almost immediately into massive debt and credit card problems that force them to begin their adult lives with bad credit scores and huge bills.”

SB 583 will face a full vote on the Senate floor.