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Bills to Watch 2019: Final Update

 

This legislative session was a whirlwind! Over one thousand bills were introduced, and while very few of those were eventually signed into law, important progress was made that deserves recognition. Below is OPEN’s review of events, focusing on the issues that most strongly impact students and families.

 

SCHOOL CULTURE: BULLYING, DISCIPLINE

  • HB 160, which requires the collection and reporting of information related to school safety and discipline, passed the legislature and was signed into law! This bill became Act 148, and will require schools to report numbers of school resource officers, student suspensions, expulsions, and removals to alternative settings, referrals to law enforcement, and school-related arrests. OPEN is excited about the passage of this bill because it will allow policymakers to have more information about discipline in schools, and they will be able to make more informed decisions about discipline and safety-related best practices.
  • HB 338 was one of the bills addressing bullying, harassment, and discrimination policy in schools, specifically requiring schools to “create a safe and inclusive environment for minorities and women” and protect Black girls and boys from bullying and discrimination that occurs because of the way they way their hair. While OPEN was wholeheartedly in support of this bill, unfortunately it stalled in committee and did not pass the legislature or become law.
  • SB 137 attempted to organize and consolidate all discipline-related rules into one bill, with a few minor changes to existing law. These changes would have been beneficial to students, but the overall discipline code still allows for inequitable and discriminatory incomes. This bill stalled in committee and did not pass the legislature or become law. However, many groups are working to improve the state discipline code, so watch out for legislation on this topic in the coming years and get ready to organize!
  • HB 47 would have increased the penalty on parents for improver supervision of their children, specifically related to “allowing” their students to be tardy or absent from school. OPEN was opposed to this bill because of the criminalizing impact it would have on parents and families. This bill passed both the House and Senate and was sent to the Governor, but has not yet been signed so it did not become law.
  • HB 158 puts into place more protections for children in juvenile detention centers, such as prohibiting the centers from detaining children for insufficient reasons and creating a more comprehensive screening tool to ensure that children are not ending up in detention centers with an unwarranted reason. OPEN strongly supports this bill, and we are glad to see that this bill passed the legislature, was signed by the Governor, and became Act 147.
  • HB 386 would have required courts to consider prior delinquent acts committed when determining whether or not to release a child who has been taken into custody. OPEN opposed this bill because laws such as this one lead to further criminalization and are often abused by judges. Fortunately, this bill stalled in committee and did not become law.
  • SB 120 was a bill proposed by Sen. Milkovich to revise rules around bullying in schools. OPEN was against this bill because it would have given schools more power to report minor incidents to law enforcement, which would mean more children coming into contact with the police and more unfair criminalization. This bill stalled in committee and did not become law.

 

SPECIAL EDUCATION:

  • HB 227 would have allowed the LA Special Education Center’s licensure to determine at what age to stop providing services for individuals, instead of requiring services until age 32. OPEN was hesitant about this bill because it could have allowed the center to provide less services than some individuals required. This bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate Education committee and did not become law.
  • SB 158 would have required all public school governing authorities (charter organizations, school boards, etc) to create special education advisory councils that were made up of at least 60% parents of children with special needs. OPEN was in support of this bill, but unfortunately, while is passed the legislature, it was never sent to the Governor and therefore did not become law.
  • HB 334 would have authorized the installation and use of cameras in the rooms of residents with developmental disabilities who live in intermediate care facilities. This bill stalled in committee and did not become law, but there will likely be further discussion about this type of regulation due to its controversial nature.

 

TEACHERS:

  • HB 310 would have removed the 2.5 GPA requirement for certain people who were applying to teacher certification programs. OPEN was conflicted about this bill, because we want to have high standards for the individuals who teach our students, but we understand that GPA does not necessarily reflect capability of teachers. This bill passed the legislature and was sent to the Governor but has not yet been signed, so it did not become law.
  • HB 337 would have added protections for teachers in the form of more information about the grievance procedure for unflattering or untrue state ratings. OPEN was in favor of this bill due to its widespread support among teachers, but this bill stalled in committee and did not become law.
  • SB 6 would have authorized an individual income tax deduction for eligible teachers of up to $250 to help compensate for the money teachers spend on classroom supplies and other educational materials. OPEN supported this bill and continues to support measures that aim to more fairly compensate teachers, but unfortunately, this bill stalled in committee and did not become law.
  • HB 430 would have authorized a $1,000 annual, refundable tax credit for eligible certified full-time teachers. Again, OPEN is in support of this type of compensation and would like to see even more work on teacher pay and appreciation, but this bill stalled in committee and did not become law.

 

While it can be frustrating to see so few bills be signed into law, the progress that did occur as a result of this legislative session is worthy of appreciation and acknowledgment. Many individuals and organizations worked hard both to move bills forward that would benefit our children, as well as stop bills that would be harmful. Please stay in touch with OPEN throughout the year to find out ways you can be involved in the fight for education equity and justice!

 

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