The Legislature returned to work two weeks ago, and CASC lobbying firm Capitol Advisors Group reviewed the first week of bill introductions to find that mental health, LCFF, and paid leave have emerged as early major issues for policymakers.Mental and Behavioral Health: So far, three bills by various members (AB 1838, AB 1849, and SB 849) would add "mental and behavioral health" to the current list of excused absences for pupils. Additionally, AB 1844 (Chu, D-San Jose) would expand paid sick days to include time to address behavioral health for an employee and their family members.
SB 805 (Portantino, D-Pasadena) seeks to provide relief to emotionally distraught employees affected by natural disasters and evacuation orders by prohibiting school employers from requiring employees to use sick, vacation, or other paid leave if the school is forced to close for these reasons, or if they are unable to make it to work.
Based upon conversations with legislators and legislative staff, Capitol Advisor Group anticipate a number of other proposals addressing the mental health of students and staff to emerge over the next few weeks. It's clearly an issue of increased concern amongst legislators in 2020 and coincides with Governor Newsom's focus on student mental and behavioral health in his state budget proposal.
CASC staff are working with several legislators to sponsor three bills commensurate with student mental health. We will communicate to all of our members these bills as soon as we receive positive confirmation and bill language. A team of dedicated board members, (Josh Godinez, Corona/Norco USD; Leia Eckstein, San Francisco USD; and Dr. Caroline Lopez, Long Beach State) will be leading the way to provide school counselors with the tools they need to conduct local legislative visits and gain support on legislation we are backing.
Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) Compliance: A two-bill package authored by Assembly Members Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) aims to more strictly monitor compliance with the intended purposes of supplemental and concentration grants within the LCFF. AB 1834 and AB 1835 are in response to a recent state audit that found three large school districts spent more than $300 million meant for at-risk students (low income, English learners, foster, or homeless) on general services. The bills would, among other things, require the state to create a better tracking system for these funds, require local educational agencies (LEAs) to annually report how the funds are spent, and prohibit LEAs from using the unspent funds on other purposes. This is significant as our friends working at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have targeted several districts to use their LCFF funds appropriately. In particular, they were able to reach an agreement with Pomona Unified to reallocate funds towards hiring more school counselors to improve student engagement in school. The aforementioned bill package is co-sponsored by Children Now, Education Trust-West, and Teach Plus. It appears the Governor's office is willing to engage on this issue and the bills should be taken seriously.
Stay-tuned: 2020 is shaping up to be a big legislative year with the potential for needed resources to be redirected to support the work of school counselors. This is commensurate with the work CASC did in 2006 to secure the passage of AB1802. At that time hundreds of school counselors spoke at local board and city council meetings and they visited local legislators, educating everyone on the services school counselors provide for students and how they are essential. We are counting on all of you.