Welcome to the September 2022 edition of What We‘re Watching in California Education, a newsletter that we hope will offer you insight into public education conversations happening at our state Capitol.
The state legislature has adjourned for final recess, and the Governor has until September 30 to sign or veto bills. Keep reading for updates on efforts to close opportunity and achievement gaps for Black students, English Learners, and low-income students.
Here are the toplines:
Legislature Fails to Secure Funding to Support Black Students: September marks the end of the road for AB 2774, which would have secured additional funding for Black students. This is one in a long line of legislative efforts to amend the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).
Clarity on English Learner Student Data and Progress: English Learner (EL) student data has been up for discussion in the legislature. Learn more about AB 1868, which would provide clarity on EL student achievement data.
A Look at California’s Teacher Shortage: News of teacher shortages across the country is alarming. However, there are a variety of efforts to address teacher qualification and shortages, especially in low-income neighborhoods.
Legislature Fails to Secure Funding to Support Black Students
The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) continues to be a hot topic of discussion in the state legislature. Unfortunately, AB 2774 (A. Weber), which was designed to adjust California’s education funding formula to require support for the lowest-performing demographic group, was placed on the state Assembly inactive file. Assemblymember Akilah Weber, M.D. (D-San Diego) announced that the bill will not be moving forward, citing “potential constitutional issues.” This is likely in reference to Proposition 209, which bars preferential treatment based on race and ethnicity. Weber is confident that policy aimed at benefiting the lowest-performing subgroups will be proposed in the Governor’s January 2023 budget.
Four subgroups of students in California consistently test below the statewide average: low-income students, fostered or homeless youth, English Learners, and Black students. And yet, Black students are the only one of these subgroups that do not receive extra resources through LCFF. If signed into law, AB 2774 would have provided $400 million per year in additional funding for Black students, as the lowest performing subgroup. Funding could have been used to create culturally-affirming curriculum, student-focused programming, and professional development opportunities for educators who primarily teach Black students.
Weber’s AB 2774 was the third attempt to codify support for Black and African American students, and one in a long string of efforts to adjust LCFF to be more equitable.
Clarity on English Learner Student Data and Progress
AB 1868 (L. Rivas) is currently on the Governor’s desk awaiting action. It would give families clearer and more accurate information on English Learner (EL) student achievement data. A sponsor of AB 1868, Californians Together, explains that the bill would ensure accurate reporting of achievement and demographic data for Long Term English Learners (LTELs). As of 2019-2020, nearly half of all English Learners in grades 6-12 were classified as LTELs, meaning they have been enrolled in U.S. schools for six years or more and have not advanced on the English proficiency test in two or more years.
Over one third of LTELs also have a disability. Without this data being publicly available, families and advocates cannot receive a complete picture of how EL students should be supported in local school districts. AB 1868 would require the California Department of Education to report standardized test scores in English language arts, math, and science for ELs according to separate subgroups.
You can show support by contacting the Governor’s office and urging him to sign AB 1868. More information and a letter template can be found here.
A Look at California’s Teacher Shortage
California’s teacher shortage has been concerning news as we start the 2022-23 school year. Recent data reveals that school districts, particularly those that serve majority high-needs students, have reported severe teacher shortages as the school year began, and that teachers have been leaving the profession at an even faster pace since the start of the pandemic. It is difficult to know exactly how many teachers have left, since California does not track teacher turnover, but we have some clues as to how many vacancies we are experiencing. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System shows that retirements increased by 26% in the first year of the pandemic, and a January 2022 survey of National Education Association members shows 55% of educators said the “pandemic has made them more likely to leave the teaching profession earlier than they had planned.” This percentage is even higher among Black (62%) and Latino (59%) teachers.
There are efforts in place across the state to strengthen the teacher workforce. Oakland Unified School District, which reports fewer than 60% of middle and high school classes being taught by fully-qualified teachers (as low as 25% in low-income neighborhoods), has named teacher retention and recruitment– particularly educators of color– as one of their priorities. Their efforts include teacher residencies, teacher development programs, mentoring and resources for all new teachers and subsidies for new teachers’ credentialing fees and assessments. Similarly, Fresno Unified School District is offering bonuses, including money for down payments for housing, and student loan forgiveness in order to attract teachers. Statewide, the Golden State Teacher Grant Program offers up to $20,000 for students pursuing teaching and other school staff positions.
President Biden has announced federal Student Loan Relief for low- to middle-income borrowers. Stay tuned for more information from GO Public Schools about how this program will affect Californians with student loan debt.
Darcel Sanders, Chief Executive Officer