Last year, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bills aimed at education reform drew a lot of attention – both for the content of the measures themselves and the fights they generated.
Perhaps her most-watched measure – one that tried to grapple with evaluating teachers in a way that was fair to students and educators – ultimately died.
Weber is still pushing to make meaningful teacher evaluations happen, and a new bill is so far still alive. AB 2826  passed the Assembly last week and will now be considered by the state Senate.
The bill requires that teachers be evaluated on a periodic basis – the timelines are different depending on a teacher’s level of experience – and that a broad set of measures be used. Rather than focusing intensely on test results, the bill encourages the use of portfolios of student work, English proficiency, surveys from parents and students, reports from classroom observations and more to be taken into account when evaluating a teacher.
After last year’s bill died, Weber’s team met with various stakeholders and stripped out certain pieces in order to move forward “without undercutting what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Weber’s communications director, Joe Kocurek.
“There are parts of the bill that we and those in the reform community agreed could wait in the interest of moving other parts of the bill now. Continued work, dialogue and pressure will be necessary, but we have a positive start,” he said.
Crucially, this version of the bill was different enough from the last that the California Teachers Association, which opposed the previous measure, stayed neutral. A handful of individual teachers groups, including the Carlsbad Unified Teachers Association, voiced opposition.
Another Weber bill , one aimed at creating a school accountability system, also passed the Assembly this week.
Here’s how the Union-Tribune described it :
AB 2548 would require districts to measure student progress in such “key variables” as achievement in English, math and science; progress toward proficiency among English-language learners; high school graduation rates; and absenteeism. This information would be easily available on a state website and would be used to guide decisions on when schools or districts need assistance or intervention.
Both the teacher evaluation bill and the school accountability bill attempt to walk a line between holding players in the system accountable, while expanding the various rubrics used to evaluate educators and schools.
Lawmakers agreed to the so-called Local Control Funding Formula – the state’s new system for funding schools, based on who has the most high-needs students – “as long as there were accountability measures in place, and we need to make sure that all students are doing well and that schools are held accountable using the most comprehensive measures possible,” Kocurek said. “We don’t want to give schools passing grades who might be doing well in one area that’s assessed, but are actually failing in other significant areas that are not measured. We don’t want students those who are falling behind lost in the numbers of those doing well.”
Another education bill from Weber that would have required certain schools to undergo an assessment of their climate and culture , and incorporate restorative justice strategies , has been held.
Just Passin’ Through
“House of Origin” sounds like a vaguely creepy video game, but it’s also the name of Friday’s big deadline in which bills have to pass through the legislative chamber from which they came. Put another way, it’s the deadline for Assembly bills to pass the Assembly, and for Senate bills to pass the Senate.
Here are some of the bills from local legislators that made the cut before the deadline. (This is not an exhaustive list.)
• It was a big week for Assemblywoman Toni Atkins: Two of her bills that address human trafficking – one that would “create a pilot program to provide temporary housing for commercially sexually exploited children,” according to a release, and another that would create an interagency task force. Other Atkins bills that passed include one to extend a program that invests in community revitalization, and one would close coverage gaps for cancer screenings.
A bill co-written by Atkins that would create new transparency requirements for people with business before the Coastal Commission got a last-minute save from fellow San Diego Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, who cast the decisive vote.
• A bill Maienschein seeks to build off the success of San Diego’s Project 25 program and would require homeless providers statewide to compile data on the number of arrests, emergency room visits and other categories of homeless people they serve. Another Maienschein bill that passed the Assembly this week would enable sexual assault victims to track the progress of their rape kits.
• Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill to add more transparency to the state’s gang database, and to provide a pathway for certain people on the list to get removed, is moving on to the state Senate.
• Bills from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez would establish workplace protections for janitors, and require trainings for anyone who serves alcohol. Gonzalez’s bill to provide overtime pay to farmworkers died in the Assembly.
• A bill from Sen. Marty Block would ban smoking at state beaches and state parks ; another would require applicants to CSU or community college jobs to disclose if they’ve been found guilty of sexual harassment.
No Drought of Opinions
Last week, Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, said during a speech in Fresno that there is “no drought” in California.
That was, of course, widely mocked because much of California is indeed in a drought , though Trump’s rhetoric was frankly not all that different from Central Valley farmers and San Diego water officials who have said the drought is manmade – they blame environmental regulations and Gov. Jerry Brown’s water-use restrictions. When they say these sorts of things, they mean “drought” as in a lack of water for human use. Most people think of “drought” meaning a lack of water falling from the sky.
Since Trump’s remarks, Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have also made stops in the state. Sanders mocked  Trump’s “no drought” speech. Though Sanders’ grasp of the issue may not be firm either: During one stop in Emeryville, he told local reporters , “Actually, it’s not an issue that I have studied … I can’t give you an expert opinion.”
Clinton actually put some thought into the issue, though she failed to mention water policy during a foreign policy speech this week in San Diego. In an op-ed for the San Jose Mercury News , though, Clinton noted that the United States has 17 national labs devoted to energy research but none focused on water.
She also wrote that she would increase federal investment in water conservation to “unlock new resources for local water infrastructure, expand water reuse, and establish a new Water Innovation Lab to develop and deploy technologies to improve water efficiency and extend supplies.”
– Ry Rivard
Golden State News
• NBC News profiles the two Latino leaders of the state Legislature , Anthony Rendon and San Diego native Kevin de León.
• State Sen. Joel Anderson wrote a letter to Secretary of State Alex Padilla  urging him to pursue prosecutions of those involved in voter fraud, and to root out more cases of dead people voting from beyond the grave . (CBS Los Angeles)
• The Columbia Journalism Review warns that a copyright bill under consideration in the state Legislature could chill public debate .