New license plate would  provide school safety funds

New license plate would provide school safety funds

(Calif.) Motorists in the state could soon help pay for safety education in K-12 schools under proposed legislation calling for a special license plate program to generate funds for violence prevention programs.

The bill would require the fees collected from the sale of the specialized plates to be deposited into the School Violence Prevention Fund, which would also be created by the legislation.

“I think sometimes people know there’s a problem in our schools and they would like to be able to have a direct impact on being part of the solution and our license plate program offers them that opportunity,” Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord and author of AB 63, said during an Assembly Education Committee hearing last week.

The bill is Bonilla’s attempt to help restore specified funding for school safety and violence prevention programs that was lost first to temporary spending flexibility given to districts in 2008-09 to offset massive budget cuts.

Two key school safety grant initiatives were then among some 39 categorical programs that were eliminated when the state adopted Gov. Jerry Brown’s new school finance system, the Local Control Funding Formula, in 2013. The $90.3 million that had previously been directed to the two grant programs was swallowed up by the LCFF, which in its first year gave local educational agencies a total of $4.5 billion in additional funding as well greater authority over how the dollars are spent.

Ken Fitzgerald, Regional Health and Safety Planning Coordinator for the Stanislaus County Office of Education, testifying on behalf of the bill, said that disruptions in the funding stream had a definite impact on the services his office had provided for six years prior to the finance changes.

Stanislaus COE is one of 11 regional leads statewide chosen to administer grant-funded safety and violence prevention programs to multiple counties in each area. Those services include staff development and training in the areas of bullying prevention and intervention, safe school planning, and crisis preparedness and response.

The dedicated funding, according to Fitzgerald, also allowed regional staff to study emerging trends and issues in school safety and stay current on best practices. In addition, it provided opportunities to form partnerships with local law enforcement agencies to conduct crisis simulations on school campuses as emergency response training for site personnel.

“Without continued funding, our programs have taken a hit in attendance,” Fitzgerald told committee members. “The collaborative training made possible through the previous funding would be restored with AB 63.”

In citing the need for the programs that would receive funding under the program, Bonilla points to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that list homicide and suicide as the leading cause of death among youths ages 10 to 24.

In addition, the author notes, a recent study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found that nearly 17 percent of school-aged children experience bullying. Nationally this equates to approximately 1.6 million children in grades 6 through 10 being bullied once a week and approximately 1.7 million children bullying other children.

“Much of this violence is preventable with strategies focused on identifying high-risk individuals, providing early intervention, and supporting communities, families, and those who are exposed to violence or prone to violent behavior,” Bonilla states in a legislative analysis of her bill.

AB 63 would require the California Department of Education to apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles to create the specialized license plate. CDE would first need to collect 7,500 applications from drivers who would purchase the license plates.

The funds generated through the sale of these special plates would be used to provide competitive grants under the School Safety and Violence Prevention Strategy Program or other school violence prevention purposes determined by the CDE, according to the author.

Assembly Education Committee members failed to move a similar bill last year, chiefly because many felt it violated a Senate resolution adopted in April, 2014, declaring a moratorium on legislation proposing new license plate types until an assessment on the impact of increases in such requests could be completed.

There are currently seven specialty license plates created by legislation, and two others developed by other state agencies, as is allowed by law, according to Assembly Education Committee staff.

There are two other legislative proposals pending, one to sponsor a diabetes awareness, education and research license plate program, and one that would create a professional sports franchise license plate program.

In addition, four bills were passed last year that call for specialized license plates for breast cancer awareness, domestic violence and sexual assault, kidney disease awareness, and a Salton Sea program.

The fiscal impact of AB 63 has not yet been determined.

The DMV website for ordering existing specialized license plates lists fees that vary from an initial cost of between $49 and $98, to annual renewal fees of between $40 and $78, depending on the type.

Bonilla’s bill will next be reviewed by the Transportation Committee. more