With the New Year comes a group of educational and youth related laws in California, several of which will likely be challenged over the coming months due to their controversial nature.
Kindergarten Readiness Act
One of the least controversial, but relevant to education, is the implementation of SB 1381, known as the Kindergarten Readiness Act. Starting this year children must be age five by Nov. 1 to enroll in kindergarten. In 2013 the cutoff date will be Oct. 1, and in 2014 the final implementation will require children are five years old by Sept. 1.
Previously, California was one of only four states with kindergarten cut-off dates later than Dec. 1. A 2008 analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California of 14 recent studies found that increasing California’s entry age will likely have a number of benefits, including boosting student achievement test scores, grade retention, special education enrollment, high school completion rates and higher wages as adults.
The law also established a new program known as “transitional kindergarten,” which would be the first year of a two-year kindergarten experience. Children born Sept. 2 through Dec. 2 will be eligible for transitional kindergarten in the year they would have normally enrolled in kindergarten.
All districts in California are required to implement transitional kindergarten classes by 2014. Currently, there are no set standards of curriculum for the program but school districts will likely adopt a pre-school and kindergarten mixture of instruction.
A child born after Sept. 1 may still be admitted to kindergarten on a case-by-case basis, if the parent or guardian applies for early admission and the school district agrees that it would be in the best interest for the child.
FAIR Education Law
The most hot-button new law, dubbed the “gay history law,” but officially known as SB 48 or the FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful) Education law, requires social science instruction to include a study of the role and contributions of lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to the development of California and the United States.
In addition to LGBT, the law requires recognition of a number of ethnic racial minority groups and people with disabilities as well as mandates the banning of any instructional materials that reflect adversely on LGBTs or particular religions.
Currently, there are five religious or conservative-based initiatives to recall SB 48 or remove the controversial language filed with the California Attorney General. In October, opponents of SB 48 failed to gather enough signatures to force a referendum to repeal the law, however, new efforts are calling for letting parents to pull their children from classes when LGBT contributions are discussed.
California Dream Act
Equally as controversial is the California Dream Act, which will be introduced in two separate steps. The first, AB130 becomes law on Sunday. This portion of the CDA will allow illegal immigrant students to receive private financial aid to California public colleges. The second portion of the CDA, AB131, begins Jan. 1, 2013, and it allows illegal immigrants to apply for state-funded scholarships and financial aid at California public colleges.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson supported the CDA.
“Traditionally, nonresidents who qualify for AB 540 waivers are persons without lawful immigration status or U.S. citizenship, or are permanent residents of another state,” said Torlakson. “However, these persons also have demonstrated a strong commitment to and investment in California personally, economically, and intellectually. Because these students will undoubtedly reinvest their education into California, it is important that our institutions of higher education support their endeavors.”
Child Passenger Law
Under SB 929, the Child Passenger Law, children under the age of eight must be properly buckled into a car seat or a booster seat in the back seats of a car. In addition, children aged eight or older who are not tall enough for the seat belt to fit properly must ride in a booster or car seat. Children must reach a height of 4-foot-9.
Previously, the law required that children remain in a booster seat until the age of six or until they weighed 60 pounds. The fine for violating this law is significant. For each child under the age of 16 who is not properly secured, parents (if in the car) or the driver can be fined a minimum of $475 and get a point on their driving record.
· AB 123 makes it illegal to disrupt students as they enter or leave school. The bill was created by Assemblyman Tom Mendoza after a court ruled that an anti-abortion group could display pictures of aborted babies during a 2003 demonstration in front of a California school.
· AB 124 establishes a process to update, revise, and align the English-Language Development Standards to the Common Core State Standards in English-language arts, and would require the State Superintendent and the State Board of Education to present lawmakers with a schedule and implementation plan for integrating the revised English-Language Development Standards into the education system.
· AB 250 establishes a structure for the implementation of the CCSS by developing and adopting curriculum frameworks and professional development opportunities that are aligned to the CCSS and are appropriate for all pupils. The bill also requires the State Superintendent, the State Board of Education, and others to develop criteria to guide the development of model professional development programs for teachers and administrators that deepen their understanding of the CCSS.
· SB 140 requires the California Department of Education to develop a list of supplemental instructional materials for use in kindergarten through seventh grade that are aligned with the CCSS in mathematics, and language arts for kindergarten through eighth grade. This bill also allows governing boards of school districts to approve supplemental instructional materials, other than those approved by the State Board of Education, if the materials are aligned with the CCSS.
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