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The Lookout: Eleven 2023 Education Bills Submitted to Gov. for Approval

Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media 

After the State Legislature’s Sept. 14 deadline to pass bills introduced this year, eleven education bills found their way to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature. 

The bills, sponsored and co-sponsored by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, fall into three categories: promoting inclusivity in the schools, building the teacher pipeline, and ensuring the well-being and success of California’s students. 

“This is an important step in building a brighter future for all of California’s students,” Thurmond said. “I applaud the efforts of our legislators, and everyone involved who worked on these important pieces of legislation.”

The bills in the inclusivity category, all signed by Gov. Newsom on Sept. 23, focused primarily on the protection and rights of LGBTQ+ students.

“A small group of extremists has sought to divide communities by advancing policies to ban books related to civil rights for communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community, to force school districts to ‘out’ LGBTQ+ students, and to restrict inclusive curriculum,” Thurmond said.

Authored by Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Santa Monica), Assembly Bill (AB 5) requires staff training for schools with students from the seventh to the twelfth grade to better support LGBTQ+ students.

Senate Bill (SB) 760, authored by Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), requires California’s K–12 schools to ensure that students have access to all-gender restrooms. 

SB 857, authored by Sen. John Laird (D-Monterey), creates a task force to assess the needs of LGBTQ+ students and provide policy to meet those needs. 

“California is proud to have some of the most robust laws in the nation when it comes to protecting and supporting our LGBTQ+ community, and we’re committed to the ongoing work to create safer, more inclusive spaces for all Californians,’ Newsom stated in a press release. “These measures will help protect vulnerable youth, promote acceptance, and create more supportive environments in our schools and communities.”

The following bills have been enrolled and presented to the Governor for his consideration. 

Bills aimed at enhancing and expanding employment opportunities for teachers are the following:

SB 765, authored by Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Glendale) provides a way to expedite the process for members of the California State Teacher’s Retirement System (CalSTRS) looking to return to the field of education.

SB 765 would also raise the income cap from 50 percent to 70 percent. 

AB 1127, authored by Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-San Bernardino), would reestablish the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program, which provides language learning opportunities for teachers and school staff to produce more bilingual and multilingual educators.

“At the heart of the work of our schools is caring for the safety, well-being, and success of our students,” Thurmond said. “Providing resources and support to ensure the health and safety of our teachers, school staff, and students is paramount to achieving successful student outcomes.”

Bills sent to Newsom for his signature concerned with the success and well-being of the state’s students are the following:

AB 483, authored by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), is designed to increase student engagement with school-based health and mental health services by reforming elements of the Department of Health Care Service’s auditing process of claims made by schools.

SB 88, introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland), requires drivers and vehicles involved in student transportation, with compensation by a local educational agency, to meet certain safety requirements. 

Another bill introduced by Skinner, SB 274, would ban schools from suspending students between the sixth and the twelfth grade for behaviors that fall under the disruption or defiance category. 

SB 348, also authored by Skinner, would provide students with enough time to finish their meals during lunchtime. 

It would also require the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California School Nutrition Association to create guidelines to regulate sodium and sugar in these meals. 

Authored by Sen. Dave Cortese (D-Campbell), SB 10 would widen the scope of California’s efforts to provide education about fentanyl-related overdose prevention in schools. 

Lastly, SB 502, authored by Sen. Benjamin Allen (D-Redondo Beach) would allow the state to access federal funds to provide vision services for California students categorized as low-income.

The funds needed for these potential additions to California laws are covered by the 2023–24 education budget which totals $108.3 billion.