An Uneventful End to an Unconventional Legislative Session, Sept. 14, 2021


The lack of late-night maneuvering could be due in part to the Gubernatorial recall being only a few days away and Democrats hoping to avoid the partisan fighting of last year, when tensions were so high between both parties in the Senate that the house had to temporarily recess to allow both sides to cool down. The short night was also probably helped by the policy implemented earlier in the year that limited the number of bills each member could send to the opposite house. The fact that this was only the first year of the session also relieved the pressure members might have felt in ensuring their bills made it to the Governor this year. Since the Legislature operates under a two-year legislative session, bills that did not make it to the Governor in 2021 can be resurrected when the Legislature returns for the second year of the session in January 2022. 


With the 2021 legislative year complete, the Governor now has until October 10 to act on any bill sent to him on or after August 30. We will provide you with our usual comprehensive summation of signed legislation once the Governor has completed his actions. In the meantime, we have highlighted major education bills that were passed to the Governor in the final days of session. If you have any questions, please reach out to any of us here at Capitol Advisors. 




Caitlin Jung 

Legislative Counsel | Capitol Advisors Group 


Extension of Brown Act flexibilities 


In the early days of the pandemic, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order (EO) N-29-20, which, among other things, allowed public agencies to conduct meetings virtually without having to comply with certain provisions of the Brown Act, including that every teleconference location be accessible to the public. Originally only intended to last as long as social distancing was required by State or local public health agencies, the Governor signed another EO, N-08-21 in June 2021, extending these flexibilities through September 30, 2021. With that deadline only a few weeks away, AB 361, authored by Assembly Member Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), would, until January 1, 2024, exempt local legislative bodies from certain provisions related to teleconference public meetings under the Brown Act, including the Act’s teleconference quorum, meeting notice, and agenda requirements, during states of emergency. If signed by the Governor, the bill would take effect immediately.  


Extending March 15 Layoff Notice to Classified Staff


AB 438, by Assembly Member Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-Grand Terrace), is headed to the Governor’s desk despite ongoing opposition from a broad coalition of education management groups. The bill, co-sponsored by the California School Employees Association. (CSEA), would apply the same layoff notice requirements for certificated staff to classified staff. This includes requiring an LEA to provide notice to a classified employee by March 15and allowing a classified employee to request a hearing to determine if there is cause for the decision not to renew their employment. Described as a measure to ensure parity and equity between certificated and classified staff, education management groups repeatedly raised concerns about tying classified employees to an already flawed layoff procedure, one that would require school employers to issue layoff notices before knowing what school budgets will look like.  


Bill requiring Ethnic Studies as graduation requirement on way to Governor’s desk, again 


AB 101, by Assembly Member Jose Medina (D-Riverside), would require LEAs serving grades 9-12 to offer at least a one-semester course in ethnic studies, beginning in the 2025-26 school year, and adds, with the 2029-30 school year, the completion of a semester-long course in ethnic studies to the state high school graduation requirements. This bill is the Assembly Member’s second attempt in this area to reach the Governor. Last year,AB 331made it to the Governor’s desk but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Newsom, who was reluctant to approve the bill before the State Board of Education (SBE) had adopted a model curriculum for ethnic studies. This time around, with the SBE having formally approved the model curriculum back in March, and funding for the bill included in the Budget Act, the Governor is expectedto sign the bill. 


Long overdue Williams clean-up 


A bill by Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) could finally update the criteria used by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) to identify schools for inspection to determine compliance with standards contained in the Williams settlement regarding the sufficiency of instructional materials and school facilities. Current law requires the SPI to identify a list of schools using the Academic Performance Index (API) every three years, despite the fact that the API was last used to identify low-performing schools in 2013. As a result, the same schools have been subjected to Williams inspections year after year. AB 599 would, beginning in 2021-22, replace the API-method with a list of all schools identified for Comprehensive Support and Improvement and Additional Targeted Support and Improvement under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), as well as all schools where 15% or more of the teachers hold less than a full credential. The bill passed unanimously out of both houses and is now on its way to the Governor’s desk.  


Legislation to address the Digital Divide 


Introduced in the first few days of the 2021-22 session, both AB 14, authored by Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Woodland), and SB 4, authored by Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), are two of the most high profile bills intended to bridge the Digital Divide. Both pieces of legislation seek to ensure the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), one of the main sources of revenue for state-funded broadband projects, continues to be replenished. Currently, the surcharge that refills the CASF is set to expire at the end of 2022. These bills would extend that end date by ten years, through 2032, and allow a total yearly collection of up to $150 million. 


Both members, who have staked their claims as leaders on broadband policy in California, noted they were working closely together to ensure both of their bills made it to the finish line. Accordingly, their bills are now what we call “double-joined” (one cannot become law without the other) and contain separate pieces that are both critical to the extension of the replenishing of the CASF. AB 14 contains the language to reauthorize the collection of the surcharge through 2032, where SB 4 contains the language pertaining to the $150 million annual collection cap. 


Indications are that these bills represent an agreement between the Legislature and Governor, raising the likelihood that the bills may be signed into law. 


Additional independent study flexibilities and other budget “clean-up” items


We previously sent out an update on AB 167, the education budget trailer bill containing clean-up for a handful of key issues. In recent years we have seen more and more policy changes handled through the budget process and this year was no different. Along with providing additional flexibilities for independent study (IS) in 2021-22, including allowing IS written agreements to be signed within 30 days of the first day of IS instruction, the bill also includes changes related to the Expanded Learning Opportunities and A-G Grant programs established in this year’s budget, as well as an extension of the deadline by when a student may request a grade be changed from a letter grade to pass/fail, a process first established by AB 104 (Chapter 41, Statutes of 2021). 


While both houses had introduced slightly different versions of the clean-up bill, the Assembly version, containing two additional provisions around IS not found in the Senate version, is the one headed to the Governor’s desk. AB 167 specifies that IS attendance credit for a quarantined student is only available for the period of quarantine mandated pursuant to state and local health guidance or order and clarifies that seat-based charter schools that use IS for quarantined students shall not attribute that attendance to a nonclassroom-based charter school and shall not be required to submit a request for a funding determination. 


Bill provides additional credentialing flexibilities 


After years of discussions surrounding the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA), and the barrier many in the field feel it poses to prospective teachers, SB 488 has been sent to the Governor’s desk. This bill would require that, by July 1, 2025, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing ensure that approved preliminary multiple subject and education specialist credential Teacher Performance Assessments assess all candidates’ reading instruction competency. This would be a dramatic shift from current practice, which requires those credential candidates to pass the RICA. In addition, SB 488 includes flexibilities for credential candidates who were unable to meet their RICA requirement due to the pandemic. 


SB 488 is just one of the many efforts this year aimed at providing alternatives for teaching candidates to meet their credential requirements. This year’s budget also included language to allow candidates to use qualifying coursework to demonstrate their basic skills and subject matter competency, in lieu of taking the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) and the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET). 


Bill would place liability for disallowed retirement compensation solely on employers


Now on the Governor’s desk, SB 278 by Senate Education Committee Chair, Connie Leyva (D-Chino) would shift full liability to employers when a retiree’s pension compensation is later disallowed. Specifically, when a retiree’s California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) pension is reduced post-retirement due to the inclusion of compensation in a collective bargaining agreement that was later determined by CalPERS to be “disallowed compensation,” the bill requires the employer who reported the disallowed compensation to pay to CalPERS the full cost of any overpayment made to the affected retired member as a result of the disallowed compensation. A previous iteration of the bill, SB 266, also passed both houses in 2019 and was on its way to the Governor when, in an unusual move, it was pulled back and placed on the Senate’s inactive file. The author had planned to work on the bill in 2020 but the effort was ultimately side-lined, like several bills that year, as a result of the pandemic. 


Late amendments to SB 278 removed the requirement for employers to pay the retired member a lump sum or an annuity based on the disallowed compensation and instead would require the employer to pay a penalty equal to 20% of the amount calculated as a lump sum. Under the bill, 90% of the penalty would be paid as restitution to the affected retired member and the remaining 10% would go to CalPERS. Similar to the previous version of the bill, SB 278 was opposed by a broad coalition, including both city and school management associations.  


Pair of bills look to provide additional support for student mental health 


The impact of COVID-19 led to a strengthened focus on youth mental health. One of the strongest proponents, Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), has companion bills related to youth mental health on the Governor’s desk. SB 14, an urgency measure that would take effect immediately upon signature by the Governor, specifically includes “for the benefit of the behavioral health of the pupil” within the “illness” category for excused absences for purposes of school attendance. SB 14 also requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to recommend best practices and identify evidence-based and evidence-informed training programs for local educational agencies (LEAs) to address youth behavioral health, including training for both school staff and students. 


SB 224 requires each LEA that offers one or more courses in health education to students in middle or high school to include in those courses specified instruction in mental health. While the bill does not include a date by when the instruction must be offered, it does require CDE to develop a plan, by January 1, 2024, to expand mental health instruction in California public schools.  


Last minute effort around charter oversight fails to gain traction 


Just days before the end of the legislative year, SB 179 (Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review) was gutted and amended to include language that would have created a new Charter Authorizing Support Team, housed at the County Office Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT).  


The bill’s language is largely identical to provisions in AB 1316, a large charter school and Independent Study reform bill by Assembly Education Committee Chair Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach). AB 1316 was sidelined earlier in the year by request of the Governor after he agreed to put some modified reforms to Independent Study in the State budget.  


The California Teachers Association (CTA) remains committed to charter school reforms, despite a clear political interest by the Governor to avoid open conflict between the charter and labor communities as he battles through a recall and potential reelection in 14 months.


Ultimately, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) was able to mobilize enough opposition in the closing days of session to ward off the last-minute effort, but it could be an indication of where things might pick up when the Legislature returns in January.