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Legislative Update

State legislature votes on a plethora of K-12 legislation

by | Sep 29, 2021 | Legislative Update Blog, State Issue | 0 comments

Both the state Senate and Assembly were in session on Sept. 28 and acted on the following K-12 legislation:

Passed Both Houses, Headed to the Governor

Senate Bill 373 – This bill requires DPI to create a school district financial information portal, in a format that allows the public to download, sort, search, and access the information at no cost. The bill also creates an advisory committee (including a WASB appointee) to advise the DPI on the portal. Passed, 20-11 (Senate); Voice Vote (Assembly).

Because the bill requires no new data collection at the school or district level and provides for a WASB representative on the advisory council, the WASB is supportive of this bill.

Senate Bill 463 – This bill requires each school board to post learning materials and educational activities used in pupil instruction and any procedure or policy that applies approval of such materials or activities online. Under the bill, a school board must update the list of learning materials and educational activities at least twice each school year (before the start of the school term and before January 15) and must notify parents and guardians each time the list is updated. Finally, the bill allows a school district resident to sue the school district and guarantees attorney’s fees, up to $15,000, to the resident if they prevail. Passed, 19-12 (Senate); 60-38 (Assembly).

We oppose this bill on local control grounds and have concerns about both the costs to local districts, especially smaller districts that may not have the staffing capacity to handle the volume of material that has to be posted, updated and maintained. We are also concerned about the litigious aspect of the bill and whether that encourages lawsuits against districts.

Assembly Bill 220 – This bill specifies that the youth apprenticeship program must be included in the list of educational options that a school provides to parents and guardians. The bill also creates an exception for a school or school board that does not operate high school grades (e.g., K-8 districts) from having to include an educational option that is available only to high school pupils. Passed, Voice Vote.

Passed by Senate, Headed to Assembly

Senate Bill 398 This bill adds September 11 to the list of special observance days for schools as a day to remember the attacks that occurred in 2001, and to honor law enforcement officers and fire fighters.  Passed, Voice Vote.

Senate Bill 449 – Grants to schools to provide critical incident mapping data to law enforcement agencies.  Passed, 31-0.

Passed Assembly, Head to Senate

Assembly Bill 411 – Under the bill, a school board is prohibited from allowing a teacher to teach pupils race or sex stereotyping and is prohibited from requiring an employee to attend a training that promotes race or sex stereotyping.

The bill provides that the state superintendent of public instruction must withhold 10 percent of state aid distributions from a school board or operator that violates these prohibitions. The bill also provides that a parent or guardian of a student may bring a claim against a school district or operator of a charter school for violation of the prohibitions. The bill also requires each school board to post all curricula online and, upon request, provide a printed copy at no cost to the requester with no exception for copyrighted material. Passed, 60-38.

We did oppose this bill but more so for the aid penalty and lawsuit provisions and the lack of an exception for sharing copyrighted materials. We agree that teaching as fact that a race or gender is inherently superior or inferior is not appropriate.

Assembly Bill 435 – This bill requires the state superintendent of public instruction to incorporate cursive writing into the model academic standards for English language arts (something that has already been done) and requires all school boards, independent charter schools, and voucher schools  to include cursive writing in its respective curriculum for the elementary grades. Specifically, each elementary school curriculum must include the objective that pupils be able to write legibly in cursive by the end of fifth grade.  Passed, 59-39.  

The WASB oppose this bill on local control grounds. The bill dictates what school boards must include in their curriculum and requires local school boards to include specific objectives in their curriculum. We believe  decisions about the value and importance of cursive writing are best made by locally elected school boards, particularly given that many view cursive writing as an outdated form of communicating seldom used by today’s young people. 

Assembly Bill 561 – This bill requires a school board annually to report to the DPI the number of pupils who attended a credit recovery course during the school year and, for each pupil, the pupil’s grade level and the subject of the recovery course. DPI must annually compile and submit that information to the appropriate standing committees of the legislature. In the bill, “credit recovery course” means a program or course, including an alternative education program, that allows a pupil to retake a course or make up course credit for a course that the pupil took but did not pass and that is required for high school graduation.

The bill, as originally introduced, would have required that reporting of credit recovery course information begin in the 2022-23 school year, and would have applied to all private schools. However, the bill was amended to to require that school districts must begin reporting this information 2021-22 and to limit the bill’s requirements to only those private schools that participate in a parental choice (voucher) program.

Assembly Bill 563 – This bill requires 0.5 credit of civics education for high school graduation, requires the DPI to promulgate administrative rules to develop a model civics curriculum and instructional materials that must address certain topics, and requires legislative approval of said model curriculum. Under this bill, school boards must provide instruction in civics education consistent with the DPI model curriculum. Passed, 61-37.

We are supportive of highlighting the importance of civics instruction, but we have concerns with how the model curriculum has to be approved by the legislature (through the rules process) and the requirement that school boards must essentially adopt the model curriculum. We also oppose a floor amendment that allows flexibility to only private schools that do not accept vouchers and another amendment that added additional reporting requirements on school boards.

Assembly Bill 564 – The bill requires reports concerning state agency expenditure of federal coronavirus relief funds and requires allocating $100 million federal American Rescue Plan Act funding for grants to school districts, independent charter schools, and private schools for mental health programs. Passed, 60-38.

The WASB supports mental health initiatives but would prefer local school boards having maximum flexibility in how to direct federal relief funding based on local circumstances/need.  In general, the WASB would prefer that the Legislature provide ongoing, capacity-building funding for school-based mental health rather than rely on one-time money that will run out.  Due to a shortage of mental health providers in many parts of the state, it is unlikely that this bill would benefit all students in all school districts.

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