CAG Legislative Update - Mental health, LCFF, and paid leave emerge as early focus
The Legislature returned to work last Monday and we’ve reviewed the first week of bill introductions to find mental health, LCFF, and paid leave emerge as early major issues for policymakers. There is a complete list of new noteworthy bills at the bottom of this email.
Mental and Behavioral Health
So far, three bills by various members (AB 1838, AB 1849, and SB 849 – detailed below) 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.
In a round-about way, 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, we 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.
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.
The 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 – unlike in prior years when the Administration (Brown and Newsom in his first year) was reluctant to significantly tinker with increased reporting and compliance for LCFF funds.
Teacher Absences Due to Illness or Accident
In response to recent press reports claiming school districts are charging teachers for their substitute teachers, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Connie Leyva (D-Chino), has introduced SB 796. The bill clarifies that teachers that have exhausted their sick leave and continue to be absent from their duties due to an illness or accident are entitled to their full salary for up to five months.
The issue is emotionally charged and revolves around the complexities of administering state disability insurance. Senator Leyva’s position as Chair of the Education Committee guarantees this issue will be a focal point in 2020.
We’re just getting started, the Legislature has until February 21 to introduce new bills. These issues won’t formally be heard for a few weeks and there is time to engage on them. Please let us know your thoughts. In the meantime, we’ll continue to update you on new legislation and developments on these issues.