Back to: Alliance Blog

State Legislature Quietly Wraps Up 2021

September 17, 2021

The 2021 legislative session came to a close last Friday, September 10th. This week, we dive into some of the bills moving forward to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for signature or veto. These bills address key components of Linked Learning, including student supports, youth civic engagement, higher education access, and more.

Student Mental Health

SB 14 (Portantino) would expand excused absences to include mental health under the illness category. This bill is an urgency measure, meaning that it would take effect immediately upon signature by the Governor. 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 (Portantino) would require 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. Although the bill does not include a date by when the instruction must be offered, it does require the CDE to develop a plan, by January 1, 2024, to expand mental health instruction in California public schools.

Ethnic Studies

AB 101 (Medina) 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 Assembly Member Medina’s second attempt to get this bill signed. Last year,  AB 331 made it to the Governor’s desk but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Newsom. This time around, the State Board of Education has formally approved the model curriculum and funding for the bill is included in the Budget Act, so the Governor is expected to sign the bill.

Digital Divide

Both  AB 14 (Aguiar-Curry) and  SB 4 (Lena Gonzalez) 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 is called “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, whereas SB 4 contains the language pertaining to the $150 million annual collection cap.

Additional Bills of Note

AB 1111 (Berman) would require the California Community Colleges (CCCs) to adopt a common course numbering system for all general education requirement courses and transfer pathway courses by July 1, 2024. This bill provides that the common course numbering system shall be student facing and ensure that comparable courses across all CCCs have the same course number.

AB 945 (Ramos) would establish a 10-member task force, convened by the CDE, to gather certain information and develop recommendations for best practices, protocols, proposed legislation, and other policies that will address how to comprehensively implement all aspects of existing law related to wearing traditional tribal regalia or recognized objects of religious or cultural significance as an adornment at school graduation ceremonies. The bill would require the task force, on or before April 1, 2023, to submit a report and recommendations to the Legislature.

AB 46 (Luz Rivas) would create the California Youth Empowerment Act to address, among other issues, the growing need to engage youth directly with policymakers. The bill would establish the California Youth Empowerment Commission in state government, consisting of 13 voting commissioners between 14 and 25 years of age and meeting specified requirements, with 11 members appointed by the Governor, one at-large member appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules, and one at-large member appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, along with several ex officio, nonvoting members from various geographic regions of the state. The commission is advisory in nature and would provide meaningful opportunities for civic engagement to improve the quality of life for California’s disconnected and disadvantaged youth.

The Governor now has until October 10th at midnight to act on any bill sent to him on or after August 30th. The legislature will reconvene after the beginning of 2022, at which time Governor Newsom will unveil his January 10 budget proposal and members will begin deciding what bills will move forward. Until then, members will be in their district offices instead of in Sacramento. We will continue to keep you updated on these and other noteworthy education bills.