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Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen focuses on education
Kristin Olsen
Republican Leader Kristin Olsen is launching an initiative for more transparency between parents and district personnel and trying to involve the private sector in early education efforts. - photo by Photo Contributed

Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen (R -- Riverbank) is spearheading educational reform at the state Capitol, evident by two bills dedicated to transparency and early education reform.

Assembly Bill 1099, aimed at empowering parent involvement in schools by requiring school districts to disclose teacher evaluations and school funding priorities, passed the Assembly in late May. The bill is precipitated by change in the education sector including the formation of Local Control Funding Formula in 2013 which places more spending control in the hands of the local districts. It is based on specific considerations such as increasing resources for students with greater need, specifically low-income students, English learners, and foster youth.

Olsen has been an advocate of LCFF which requires school districts to form a Local Control Accountability Plan, a three year plan that declares districts’ strategies on how to address state priority areas for students and identifies specific actions districts will take to achieve those goals. The LCAP emphasizes planning and communication and must be developed with various stakeholders

Using these changes as a platform, Olsen is launching an initiative for more transparency between parents and district personnel. AB 1099 would require school districts and county offices of education to make public their evaluation process for certified teachers and disclose if there is such a system for principals. District and school site expenditures would also be made public.

“In order to fully and effectively advocate for their children, parents need information about how and how often their teachers and principals are being evaluated, and how districts are allocating resources to each of their schools,” said Olsen.

AB 1099 is one measure in the Assembly Republican Caucus' package of education reform bills introduced earlier this year and will appear before the Senate Committee in coming weeks.

Olsen also co-authored legislation with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D- San Diego) aimed at involving the private sector in early education efforts. The goal of Assembly Bill 1161, which passed the Assembly Floor in late May, is to expand educational opportunities for young children without creating a state program "or raising costs on taxpayers" said Olsen.

“By harnessing the power of the private sector, we can allow more low-income students to enter preschool, which will help prepare them for academic success well into their futures,” said Olsen.

AB 1161 aims to address long waiting lists that often plague early education programs provided by the state and instead proposes a five year pilot program where businesses receive a 40 percent state tax credit for investing in a California Preschool Investment Fund. The bill would then require CalPIF to reimburse the state's General Fund for program administration costs and distributed tax credits to ensure the new program does not incur addition costs for the state.

“We need more legislative measures like AB 1161 – private sector solutions to real-world problems faced by many in our state,” said Olsen. “I hope this is the start of a new trend in state government to empower the creativity of the private sector to help Californians, not the exception to the rule.”

AB 1161 will be assigned to a Senate policy committee in the coming weeks.