Newsom signs bill creating mental health protocol for schools
The California Department of Education will create a protocol for schools to better address student mental health challenges, under a new law signed Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Assembly Bill 309, sponsored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) and Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), comes amid a surge in youth mental health disorders related to the pandemic. The new protocol will help schools identify students who might need help and connect them with counseling or other services. Teachers, parents, counselors and students will be among those who help write the protocols. The protocol must be complete within two years, according to the law. “California was facing a student mental health crisis prior to the pandemic, and the current situation is even more troubling,” Gabriel said. “Our legislation will equip teachers with better tools and resources so that they can help our students navigate these extremely challenging times, particularly as we continue reopening our schools and bringing students back into the classroom after months of distance learning.” Mr. Newsom has also signed legislation requiring students to take ethnic studies to graduate high school. Districts will develop coursework that delves into the contributions and struggles of Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans throughout the nation’s history. Courses must be offered beginning in the 2025-26 school year.
California to require free period products in public schools, colleges
California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons and other items. California’s latest effort builds on a 2017 law requiring low-income schools in disadvantaged areas to provide students with free menstrual products. The bill, called the Menstrual Equity for All Act of 2021, applies to public schools serving students in grades six to 12, community colleges and the California State University System, according to the bill's sponsor, Democratic Assemblymember Cristina Garcia. “California joins a growing number of states who lead the way in demonstrating that menstrual equity is a matter of human rights,” the advocacy group PERIOD said in statement. “No student should ever lose learning time due to their periods, period.”
LAUSD extends staff COVID-vaccine deadline
Los Angeles USD has has extended the looming deadline for all workers to be fully immunized for COVID-19 by one month, to November 15th. Interim Supt. Megan Reilly said the move represents the right balance of firmness and forbearance. “We don’t want people to be out of jobs,” Ms. Reilly said in an interview. “Our employees are one of the strongest assets that we have.” At the same time, she said, “we’re absolutely adamant about keeping our schools the safest possible environment — and vaccinations are clearly the pathway to keeping them safe.” The extension comes as the nation’s second-largest school system has struggled to fill more than 2,000 teaching and other vacancies, including counselors, nurses and maintenance staff.
Los Angeles Times
Modesto City Schools, teachers union set new quarantine learning plan
Modesto City Schools will provide live instruction and online lessons to students who miss school days for reasons related to COVID-19. The independent study plan approved last week compensates teachers with a 4.5% raise for an average of 20 minutes of additional work time per day. Officials from the district and its teachers association said the agreement balances student needs, legislative requirements and higher teacher workloads. “We appreciate the collaborative relationship with MCS leadership that allowed us to reach this agreement,” Modesto Teachers Association President Doug Burton said in a statement.
California extends tax on cellphones
Californians could have higher cellphone bills after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two laws on Friday aimed at giving the state more money to build high-speed internet connections in unserved areas. The state is one of 41 that collects a tax on phone bills and uses the money to build high-speed internet connections. The laws make it easier for state regulators to change how the tax is collected, which will likely lead to people paying more on their cellphone bills. They are the final pieces of Democrats’ plan this year to make high-speed internet available to more people. Democratic leaders were prompted by the pandemic, which put the state’s broadband access into sharper focus once all of the state’s school children had to learn from home for most of the year.
US News and World Report
Policy recommendations for state lawmakers to support 'principal pipelines'
A new report by the Wallace Foundation underlines how state policy can support school districts in building and strengthening principal pipelines. Paul Manna, the Hyman professor of government and director of the Public Policy Program at the College of William & Mary, suggests six "levers" state lawmakers can pull, asserting that approaches that embrace flexibility and provide local school districts with incentives to consider launching principal pipeline initiatives would be a better approach than mandating typically more rigid standards. Examples of actions policymakers can take, he adds, include developing leader standards with differentiation between leadership roles, using those standards to inform oversight and licensing for principal preparation programs, and ensuring flexibility for local standards and evaluation policy processes.
Federal funding key to tackling soaring U.S. childcare costs
Jason DeParle explores the nation's soaring childcare costs and underlines the determining role of the federal government in funding seismic changes to the sector. The Treasury Department reported last month that the average cost of care is roughly $10,000 a year per child and consumes about 13% of family income, nearly twice what the government considers affordable. At the same time, the Department noted the average teacher earns about $24,000 a year, many live in poverty, and nearly half receive some public assistance. “It’s among the lowest-paid of all occupations,” laments Lea J.E. Austin of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. “People have a hard time seeing that this is complex, specialized work.” The weighty social policy bill being pushed by President Biden at present would cap families’ childcare expenses at 7% of their income, DeParle notes, offer large subsidies to child care centers, and require the centers to raise wages in hopes of improving teacher quality, and a version before the House would cost $250 billion over a decade and raise annual spending fivefold or more within a few years. An additional $200 billion would provide universal prekindergarten. “This would be the biggest investment in the history of childcare,” says Stephanie Schmit, a child care expert at the Center for Law and Social Policy, who asserts: "This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do right for everyone.”
New York Times
HEALTH & WELLBEING
Supply chain issues impacting schools' COVID-19 testing capabilities
Lawmakers and school leaders are increasingly sharing concerns about schools' continued limited access to COVID-19 tests, as well as slim testing bandwidth due to staff shortages for administering and documenting regular testing. In places where funds are limited, staff bandwidth is slim or distribution is slow, some districts are being pushed to forego regular testing. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, speaking during a September 30 meeting of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, acknowledged that demand has increased "month over month" as much as 650% in places and is not evenly spread across the nation. For her part at the meeting, Sen. Patty Murray, chair of the HELP Committee, highlighted a recent survey showing that the majority of parents of color needed COVID-19 testing in place, among other safety measures, to feel safe while sending their children to school in person. "Districts that originally were getting tests from the state — those supplies are running really low, and so they're having to try to get their providers to give them these tests and who can run the lab for the tests," warns Sasha Pudelski, advocacy director for AASA, The School Superintendents Association. "They're not closing schools, they're just not having testing."
New research focuses on benefits and drawbacks of four-day school weeks
The move from a five-day school week to a four-day week with extended days has been one of the fastest-increasing phenomena shaping district operations. A new RAND Corp analysis of the practice has found that the districts which adopted the framework saw slower rates of student progress after several years than similarly situated districts that retained a five-day schedule. More than 1,600 U.S. school districts have adopted the model as of 2019-20. In some states, it represents a significant, widespread restructuring of district operations, including 60% of Colorado’s districts and around 40% of New Mexico’s and Oregon’s. The researchers interviewed more than 400 parents, teachers, administrators, and students in three states with large numbers of districts using the four-day model: Idaho, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. Findings include that students in the four-day weeks spent significantly more time on school sports and on chores than did those in five-day weeks. Four-day secondary students also spent more time on homework, at jobs, at school activities, and on hobbies than their counterparts. Around three years after the switch, student growth in the four-day districts began to fall short compared to that in similarly situated five-day districts. The finding grew more pronounced with time and the slowdown in achievement was more dramatic in math than in reading. In all, the declines were on the order of between 0.5 to 0.15 of a standard deviation lower after three years, and around 0.2 of a standard deviation after eight years.
More California colleges remove SAT, ACT requirements during application process
Nearly 130 colleges and universities in California do not require students applying for the Fall 2022 semester to release their ACT or SAT scores, according to updated data from the National Center for Fair & Open Testing. The center, also known as FairTest, is a non-profit organization that lobbies for colleges to treat students as “more than a score,” and expand their admission criteria beyond standardized test results. “Schools that did not mandate ACT/SAT submission last year generally received more applicants, better academically qualified applicants, and a more diverse pool of applicants,” said FairTest Executive Director Bob Schaeffer.
San Diego Union-Tribune
School police debates stall amid safety concerns
Initiatives to dismantle school resource officer programs in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the killings of other Black Americans at the hands of police appear to have slowed, after growing momentum for change last year and Black educators' skepticism around the authenticity of those efforts. Many school districts have brought SROs back with modifications or put in place similar alternative programs, according to Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers; changes include the use of "soft uniforms" - casual clothing with police paraphernalia still on show - in order to make officers seem more approachable, having on-call SROs who are removed from the building but available to help when needed, and removing the arrest powers of SROs in schools. Overall, the rethinking of approaches to SROs in schools "does not seem to be negatively impacting the majority of our members," Canady said. "I think, for the most part, we're seeing at least circumstantial evidence that most communities are satisfied with their SRO programs."
Gun safety advocates sound alarm to Congress
A day after four people were injured in a Texas high school shooting, gun safety advocates and the heads of the nation’s two biggest teachers unions demanded new gun control laws, citing an unusually violent return-to-school season as students resume in-person learning. During a press call Thursday, leaders with Everytown for Gun Safety, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association bemoaned a return to campus gun violence after a year without mass school shootings. There were 30 reported instances of gunfire on school grounds between August 1st and September 15th, resulting in five deaths and 23 injuries, according to a tally by Everytown, a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes gun control measures. "You parlay that with the anxiety and stress that preK through 12 children have lived through for the last 18 months," said Joe Erardi, who took over as superintendent of schools in Newtown, Connecticut, in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and is now a school safety consultant for AASA, The School Superintendents Association. "If you allow this country's most complex minds to stay home and plan for 18 months, it is a formula for a horrible school opening. And that's exactly what's taken place." AFT President Randi Weingarten called for moderate lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, to support measures like red flag laws, firearm storage rules and background checks for all gun sales. “It shouldn’t be controversial,” she said. “There’s huge bipartisan support [among voters] for these common-sense safety measures.”
US News and World Report
National School Bus Safety Week focuses on danger zone awareness
The American School Bus Council (ASBC) has chosen “Be Safe, Know the Danger Zone” as the theme for this year's National School Bus Safety Week theme, which runs from October 18th-22nd. The organization is urging students and motorists to be mindful of the potentially devastating results of getting within the 12-foot area around the outside of a school bus. “With students back in the classroom again, we value the school bus with renewed perspective,” said Ronna Weber, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS). “That’s why it’s important to celebrate safety week in your school bus community.”
School Bus Fleet
California introduces gender-neutral toy sections
California became the first state in the nation Saturday to adopt a law requiring large retail stores to provide gender-neutral toy sections. The new law, which takes effect in 2024, says that retail stores with 500 or more employees must sell some toys and child-care products outside of areas specifically labeled by gender. Retailers can continue to offer other toys and child-care goods in traditional boys and girls sections if they choose to. “Traditionally children’s toys and products have been categorized by a child’s gender. In retail this has led to the proliferation of [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]-geared toys in a ‘boys’ section and toys that direct girls to pursuits such as caring for a baby, fashion, and domestic life,” commented Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), who introduced the legislation. “The segregation of toys by a social construct of what is appropriate for which gender is the antithesis of modern thinking". Campbell Leaper, a distinguished professor of psychology at UC Santa Cruz, said companies began using gender labels and pink and blue indicators to market products specifically to girls or boys during the 1940s and 1950s. Research into developmental psychology says children become aware of gender categories as early as age 3 and are very sensitive to gender-based labels, he said.
Los Angeles Times