Legislative Update


The first year of California’s 2023-24 legislative session has come to an end

This year CFT tracked over 1,300 bills, supporting 160 and opposing 38. Included in these figures are 16 bills that the CFT was either the primary sponsor, or a co-sponsor thereof.

In total, eleven CFT-sponsored or co-sponsored bills reached Governor Newsom’s desk, where six were signed into law, and five were vetoed.

The following bills were signed by the Governor, and will become law on January 1, 2024

Assembly Bill 5, authored by Assembly Member Rick Zbur, requires the Department of Education to develop and/or update resources for a one-hour training for teachers to support LGBTQ+ pupils and thereby improve the overall school climate. This includes all school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools serving pupils in grades 7-12. The training will be updated as the law is updated, and teachers will be required to receive the training every five years. 

Assembly Bill 800, authored by Assembly Member Liz Ortega, requires the week of April 28 to be known as “Workplace Readiness Week” and requires its observance by all public high schools (including charter) by being integrated into the regular school program, consistent with the history-social science framework. During this week, schools will provide students information on their labor rights, including contractors vs. employees, child labor laws, wage protections, worker safety and compensation, unemployment insurance, leave, and rights to form a union and protections against retaliation. Further, if a student requests a work permit, these rights will be shared in natural terminology and translated into languages spoken at home.

Assembly Bill 897, authored by Assembly Member Kevin McCarty, rectifies a long-standing issue for Adult Education teachers, by requiring Adult Education teachers to earn permanent status after a two-year probationary period. It also requires specific notifications for employees hired using restricted categorical funding about their expected job tenure. 

Assembly Bill 1273, authored by Assembly Member Mia Bonta, requires the Department of Education to consult with CalOSHA, the Department of Industrial Relations, the Labor Commissioner, and representatives of education labor and management to convene the Classified Employee Staffing Ratio Workgroup by the end of 2024. This group is tasked with recommending staffing ratios for classified employees that reflects environmental settings, type of work to be completed, impact made by the number of enrolled students, specialized needs, certifications/licenses, and other reasonable factors. The ratios will serve as a best practice, but staffing at school sites will remain under the outcome of local bargaining.

Senate Bill 88, authored by Senator Nancy Skinner brings various requirements for drivers who provide school-related transportation services for hire. The purpose of this bill is to align current safety standards that apply to school bus drivers, with standards for drivers of transportation-network-companies (commonly known as Uber, Lyft, HopSkipDrive, et cetera) or other companies that are contracted to provide mandatory transportation services. 

Senate Bill 872, authored by Senator Dave Min, requires the Department of Education to release an annual report of actual school site class size data. The law will provide a report to policymakers and the public that reflects the size of classrooms throughout the state using averages that actually reflect the number of students in various types of classrooms in each grade. This report can serve as a basis for future policy work on lowering class sizes and bring more light to the issue of workload for our educators and classified professionals.

The following bills were vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom

Assembly Bill 504 was authored by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Reyes (now former leader with the recent change in the Speakership of the Assembly), and would have provided that it would not be cause for discipline if a public employee were to refuse to enter property, perform work for, or go through a primary strike line of another public agency. This bill would have protected our members from being forced to cross picket lines or perform scab work for public employers. Governor Newsom cited concern for the broad impact this bill would have on public services.

Assembly Bill 1604, authored by Assembly Member Mia Bonta, would have placed certain restrictions and protections for public funds used to obtain or build school sites for charter schools. While the intent of the bill is to prevent charter operators from becoming land barons, the Governor cited an imbalance on the risk versus reward when it comes to financing charter schools.

Assembly Bill 811, authored by Assembly Member Mike Fong, is an attempt to restore traditional access to classes for community college students. It focuses on allowing more students to attempt the passage of classes they have struggled with (course repetition), and allow students to repeat certain courses they have already passed in order to build skills and be life-long learners (course repeatability). Though the repetition component was amended out of the bill at the end of the process, the Governor still vetoed the bill, citing concerns about the effort to lower “excess course units.”

Assembly Bill 1699, authored by Assembly Member Kevin McCarty, would provide classified employees with a right of first refusal to additional assignments when a district posts a vacancy or new positions. The purpose of the bill is to improve the income of classified employees who are unable to work enough hours to make ends meet, and is modeled after various merit-district policies that assist current employees to expand their workload. While the Governor cited local bargaining issues as a cause for the veto, the CFT is hopeful that similar legislation in the future will accommodate these concerns and be able to be signed into law. 

Senate Bill 394, authored by Senator Lena Gonzalez, would have created a “Master Plan for Healthy, Sustainable, and Climate-Resilient Schools” in 2025, and would have set priorities and benchmarks for health, resilience and decarbonization of public school campuses and support facilities. The Governor cited budgetary concerns over this bill, but the CFT will continue to work with coalition partners to incorporate these policies in future state budgets.

While the CFT was very successful this year in advocating for legislation through the entire process, there were several important bills that remain to be addressed

CFT began the legislative session with a direct answer to the most common policy question, “how are improvements to the public education system paid for?” Assembly Bill 259 and Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3, both by Assemblymember Alex Lee, would create a first-in-the-nation wealth tax for California residents with a net worth of $50 million and up at 1%, and $1 billion and up at 1.5%. This effort is estimated to yield over $20 billion dollars in annual revenue. Unfortunately, the bill was never given an opportunity to be heard, due to the Chair of the Assembly Revenue & Tax Committee, Jacqui Irwin, not allowing a hearing for the bill. Governor Newsom has also made public statements that he doesn’t support raising taxes at this time. 

CFT also has served as a staunch voice to combat the current staffing crisis throughout our system. Assembly Bill 938, authored by Assembly Education Committee Chair Al Muratsuchi would increase the base-funding level of the Local Control Funding Formula by 50%, with the intent that these funds be provided to raise the wages of educators so that districts have the ability to hire more educators and classified professionals. Given the current budget deficit that California must face, CFT will be engaging Governor Newsom throughout the year to devise a long-term plan of action to meet this need.

Next Steps: The CFT Legislative Committee will convene in early November to begin the process of selecting proposals for sponsored legislation in 2024, and continue to advocate for long-term solutions for the current staffing crisis, funding shortfalls, and increase the quality of our education system and respect for the educational workforce. 

For questions about these legislative updates, please contact Legislative Director Tristan Brown at tbrown@cft.org.