New Education Laws in California 2021

by Carol Kocivar | October 24, 2021 | 4 Comments
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New laws address income inequalities

Yes, crisis does create opportunity.

Now the legislative session is over and the signing is done. From the perspective of education policy, this was a productive year in California. The convergence of the pandemic crisis and a one-time windfall of state and federal money gave law-makers the gumption to think big and pass long-needed reform legislation in 2021 to support children and families.

The pandemic forced California to look at gaping holes in California’s safety net. School children struggling with no broadband service. Families in poverty with housing, health and food insecurity. Urgent mental health needs.

Many of the new laws and investments prioritize best practices:

A word of warning, though: while there is money to do more, lack of qualified staff is a real problem. Schools are struggling to fill existing vacant positions. Getting more people to choose education as a career will take a lot more time and funding.

Ed100 roundup of new laws

Ed100 once again brings you a roundup of a selection of this year’s new laws that affect students in California. We hope you share this with your school community. Here we go…

Need a little grounding on how the budget fits into the legislative process? Check here.

Investments in digital access for students and families

The pandemic delivered new whack-on-the-head clarity about what is truly indispensable in education: the capacity for students and educators to interact with one another in the work of learning. Remote learning on its own isn’t as compelling as in-person learning, but it’s better than nothing and digital tools have become critical infrastructure for education. Universal access to the technologies that connect students, parents and educators is a new baseline definition of an education facility. See Ed100 Lesson 5.9 for more details.

The budget includes a $6 billion investment to expand broadband infrastructure and enhance access by constructing an open access middle mile and by funding construction of last mile projects that connect unserved households in remote areas. (This does not include technology investments in schools.)

Broadband expansion

Broadband for underserved communities

AB 14 (Aguiar-Curry) extends the California Advanced Services Fund program to encourage deployment of broadband service to unserved Californians.

Increases funding for California Advanced Services Fund (CASF)

SB 4 (Gonzalez) extends the operation of the CASF through 2032, increases the annual funding and expands projects to include broadband deployment at unserved locations used for emergency response.

Greater transparency of franchise holders

SB 28 (Caballero) allows the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to collect more granular franchise holder service data and authorizes CPUC to adopt customer service standards as well as adjudicate service complaints from customers.

Broadband infrastructure deployment

AB 41 (Wood) requires Caltrans to install conduit for fiber communications lines as part of projects to build a state-owned middle-mile broadband network.

Early learning

One of the most powerful, best-documented levers for successful education outcomes is to start education when kids are young.

Expand early learning

Expansion of pre-school and childcare slots

California is expanding dual language immersion programs, state preschool or transitional kindergarten (TK) programs and will phase in 200,000 new child care slots by 2025-26

Transitional kindergarten (TK)

Starting in 2022-23, funding will incrementally establish universal transitional kindergarten with full implementation by 2025-26.

Dual language learners

AB 1363 (Rivas) makes California the first state to create a standardized process that identifies and supports K-12 dual language learners at an early age

Child care access

SB 393 (Hurtado) improves access to child care for migrant agricultural workers.

Focus where the needs are greatest

More resources for needy students

Increased funding for needy students through LCFF

The LCFF concentration grant increased from 50 percent to 65 percent of the base grant, providing an additional $1.1 billion in ongoing Prop. 98 funds to school districts (LEAs) with an enrollment of 55 percent or greater of low-income, English learner, and foster youth students.

The additional funds are for increasing certificated and classified staffing at school sites, reducing the adult-to-student ratios at schools.

Expanded learning time

School districts will receive funding for expanded learning opportunities including after school and summer programs. Funding is based on the number of low-income students, English language learners, and youth in foster care.

Universal access to school meals

Beginning in 2022-2, all public schools must provide two free meals per day to any student who requests a meal, regardless of income eligibility.

Expansion of community schools

Communities with high levels of poverty will get money to create and support community schools. Community schools partner with education, county, and nonprofit entities to provide integrated health, mental health, and social services alongside high-quality, supportive instruction.

Special education

$100 million to help resolve special education disputes through the Alternative Dispute Resolution process (ADR). (Learn more)

$450 million for learning recovery support for students with disabilities for extra tutoring, therapy, and other services to make up for what students missed during the pandemic.

Invest in support for teachers

Investments in educators

Workforce preparation

Funding for teacher preparation residencies and other grow-your-own teacher credentialing programs to support more than 5,000 classified school staff in becoming credentialed teachers. This is an expansion of the Golden State Teacher grant program for teachers who commit to teach at a priority school, in a high-need subject matter area, for four years.

Retention and training

Funding to incentivize 2,500 highly-qualified National Board Certified teachers to teach and mentor other instructional staff in high poverty schools, improving retention of teachers. The Educator Effectiveness Block Grant provides training resources on high-need topics, including accelerated learning, social-emotional learning, re-engaging students, restorative practices, and implicit bias training.

Teacher credentialing literacy

SB 488 (Rubio) requires the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) to ensure competence in literacy instruction, strengthens literacy requirements in teacher preparation programs and requires the CTC to ensure that its standards for program quality and effectiveness are implemented.

Support health in schools and communities

Investments in health

Mental health student referrals

AB 309 (Gabriel) requires development of mental health model referral protocols addressing the appropriate and timely referral by school staff of students with mental health concerns.

Mental health excused absence

SB 14 (Portantino) adds mental health as a category for excused absences and requires the California Department of Education to identify training programs for local educational agencies to address youth behavioral health, including staff and pupil training.

Required mental health courses

SB 224 (Portantino) requires schools offering courses in health education to pupils in middle school or high school to include mental health instruction in those courses.

Expansion of behavioral health system

Expansion of health services for all Californians age 25 and younger, including training for new behavioral health workers, and creation of a statewide portal that can connect young people with telehealth visits and other interactive tools. This expanded system is designed to identify behavioral health conditions early and improve long-term outcomes.

Diabetes information for parents

SB 97 (Roth) provides parents with information about type 1 diabetes

Menstrual products in schools

AB 367 (Garcia) requires public schools to stock the school’s restrooms with free menstrual products for students from grades 6 to 12.

Add support where there is least of it

Support for low income families / homeless

Economic relief

Stimulus and Earned Income Tax Credit

Low to Middle Income: $600 one-time stimulus payments to all taxpayers filing a 2020 tax year return with adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less who did not already receive a Golden State Stimulus.

Families: $500 one-time stimulus payments to all taxpayers with adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less with a dependent on the return.

Undocumented Families: $500 one-time stimulus payments to all immigrant taxpayers with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers with adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less and a dependent. Moratorium on evictions

The budget also includes support for first-time home buyers and other housing investments. This isn’t, in a narrow sense, an investment in education — but it will matter a lot to the students who have a secure place to live!

Homeless programs

The budget expands access to housing options and provides crisis intervention and stabilization services to homeless youth.


Transitional Housing to help young adults aged 18 to 25 years find and maintain housing, with priority given to those formerly in the foster care or probation systems.


Foster Youth Housing Navigators help young adults aged 18 to 21 secure and maintain housing, with priority given to young adults in the foster care system. Funding is allocated as grants to counties.

School supplies for homeless children

AB 742 (Calderon) funds school supplies for homeless children via a voluntary tax contribution fund.

Stable housing for homeless youth

AB 546 (Maienschein) prevents homelessness in youth aging out of the foster care system by requiring the county to verify that stable housing and support is in place before jurisdiction is terminated.

Homeless children and youths and unaccompanied youths

AB 27 (Rivas) Requires each school to identify all enrolled homeless and unaccompanied students. Requires the California Department of Education (CDE) to develop best practices and a model housing questionnaire, and authorizes the CDE to award grant funding to county offices of education to develop technical assistance centers related to homeless and unaccompanied students.

Homeless children and youths: collaboration, training, and reporting.

SB 400 (Jones) requires districts and charter schools to identify a liaison for homeless children and youths to ensure they receive services.

Keep evolving the system to include everyone

Key systemic changes

Ethnic studies requirement

AB 101 (Medina) adds the completion of a one-semester course in ethnic studies to the high school graduation requirements starting with pupils graduating in 2029–30. It also authorizes local educational agencies to require a full-year course in ethnic studies at their discretion. Local educational agencies must offer an ethnic studies course starting with the 2025–26 school year.

Grade retention and Pass/No Pass

AB 104 (Gonzalez) allows high school students to petition to change their grades on transcripts to Pass/No Pass and petition to allow a pupil to be retained in their current grade for the 2021-22 year. Allows eligible high school students to enroll in a 5th year of high school in order to complete any outstanding graduation requirements.

Return Bruce’s Beach to Black Descendants as model to end historical government wrongful taking

SB 796 Nearly a century after Bruce’s Beach was wrongfully taken from Black entrepreneurs Willa and Charles Bruce, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that will enable Los Angeles County to return the beachfront property to their descendants, continuing the state’s leadership to redress historical injustices and advance equity.

Overall, the governor signed 770 bills into law in 2021. The summary above focuses on the measures related to K-12 education. For more about how the legislative process works (and how and when your voice can make the most difference), check out this post.

Questions & Comments

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user avatar
Carol Kocivar October 25, 2021 at 9:33 pm
Totally agree with your concern about using one time money for on going costs. The idea of community schools is that they leverage community resources. The community resources provide the mental health services, etc. The LCFF increase in concentration grants as a percentage of the base grant was not pitched as temporary.
user avatar
tamara_hurley October 25, 2021 at 5:29 pm
I really appreciate this summary of information.

I do have concerns, however, about introducing the concept of using one-time funding for what are in all likelihood ongoing costs. It may be that this is how these funds were "pitched" by Sacramento to school districts and the public, but I hope that Ed100 can be clear about the limitations. For example, the "creation and development of community schools" would encourage the use one-time funding for something that requires long-term investment for the additional personnel to maintain the services provided (such as a nurse, mental health services, etc.). Similarly, using the temporary increase in LCFF concentration grant funding for "increasing certificated and classified staffing at school sites, reducing the adult-to-student ratios at schools" is not a sustainable model without continued state funding at that level.
user avatar
tamara_hurley October 25, 2021 at 5:29 pm
I really appreciate this summary of information.

I do have concerns, however, about introducing the concept of using one-time funding for what are in all likelihood ongoing costs. It may be that this is how these funds were "pitched" by Sacramento to school districts and the public, but I hope that Ed100 can be clear about the limitations. For example, the "creation and development of community schools" would encourage the use one-time funding for something that requires long-term investment for the additional personnel to maintain the services provided (such as a nurse, mental health services, etc.). Similarly, using the temporary increase in LCFF concentration grant funding for "increasing certificated and classified staffing at school sites, reducing the adult-to-student ratios at schools" is not a sustainable model without continued state funding at that level.
user avatar
christy1carter October 25, 2021 at 11:56 am
This is a great article. Thank you for the summary on the bills.
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