Assembly Bill 354 requires the impartial analysis for a local ballot measure to specify whether the ballot measure was placed on the ballot either by a petition signed by the requisite number of voters or by the legislative body. Legislative body attorneys are already required to prepare such an impartial analysis for each ballot measure in order to provide voters with objective information concerning the proposed measure’s effects. Such analyses will now be required to contain the additional specification as to how the particular ballot measure was placed on the ballot, within the existing 500 word limit applicable to impartial analyses.
Conflict of Interest
Moreover, Assembly Bill 409 authorized the FPPC to establish a statewide online system that will allow public officials to electronically file their economic interest statements. These statements, or Form 700s, are mandatory periodic statements of economic interest that disclose financial information such as income and investments. This bill was passed as emergency legislation and became effective on October 8, 2013.
- The name and contact information of the Agency;
- A list of the types of personal information compromised;
- The time and date of the breach;
- The length of any delays between the breach and notice;
- A general description of the incident; and
- Contact information for credit reporting agencies.
Public Bidding and Contracts
With regard to community college districts only, Assembly Bill 173 modifies the Small Business and Procurement Contract Act to allow such districts to award a contract for goods, services, or information technology with a value between $5,000 and $250,000 to a certified small business, including a microbusiness and a disabled veteran business enterprise, without complying with certain competitive bidding requirements. A community college district utilizing this bidding exception must obtain price quotations of two or more certified small businesses. A community college district must also consider any responsible offer from a responsible certified small business including a microbusiness or disabled veteran business enterprise.
Senate Bill 681 adds language to Public Contract Code section 20652 permitting community college districts, where there is an existing contract between a vendor and another public agency, to lease or purchase materials, supplies and equipment directly from the vendor under the same terms and conditions that are available to the other public agency under its contract with the vendor. Community college districts may deal directly with vendors on “piggyback” contracts (lawful contracts held by other public agencies) under the same terms and conditions as provided in the other agency’s contract.
Assembly Bill 56 requires the State Fire Marshal to propose appropriate standards for the installation of carbon monoxide devices in school buildings, by January 1, 2015. With this guidance, the California Building Standards Commission will then include the standards in the 2016 California Building Standards Code, and any public or private school buildings built after these codes have been adopted in 2016 will be required to install carbon monoxide detectors. A public school that uses a school building for K-12 educational purposes that was built before the adoption of title 24 of the California Code of Regulations and has a fossil fuel burning furnace located inside the school building is encouraged to have a carbon monoxide device installed in such building.
Retirement and Pensions
AB 1381 harmonizes the Teachers’ Retirement Law (“TRL”) with PEPRA. Some of the salient modifications to the TRL are:
- Defines “public employer” in the TRL for both the Defined Benefit Program and the Cash Balance Benefit Program by referencing the definition of “public employer” in the PEPRA;
- Makes changes to provisions governing age factors and normal retirement age;
- Makes various changes to provisions governing the limits on amount and types of compensation;
- Prohibits 2% at 62 members from receiving any benefits from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) in excess of the federal limit by excluding them from the Replacement Benefits Program; and
- Restricts the purchase of non-qualified service in the TRL.
Assembly Bill 556 amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) by adding “military and veteran status” to the list of categories protected from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Members or veterans of the United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces Reserve, the United States National Guard, and the California National Guard possess such “military and veteran status.” Notwithstanding this protection, employers may make inquiries regarding military or veteran status in the consideration of awarding a lawful veteran preference. Local agencies should ensure that their employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies are amended to include this new protected category of “military and veteran status.”
Senate Bill 292 amends FEHA’s definition of “sexual harassment” to state that “[s]exually harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire.” This amendment is a direct response to the California Court of Appeal case of Kelley v. Conco Companies, which held that a plaintiff in a same-sex harassment case must prove that the harasser harbored a sexual desire for the plaintiff in order to prevail on the sexual harassment cause of action. Under the new law, harassment based on sex can include harassment between people of the same sex even if sexual desire is not present or cannot be proven.
Economic Development Subsidies
- Name and address of any business entity benefiting from the subsidy;
- Subsidy beginning and end dates;
- A description of the subsidy and estimated total amount of the expenditure of public funds, or revenue lost, as a result of the subsidy;
- A statement of the public purpose of the subsidy;
- Projected tax revenue to the city or county as a result of the subsidy; and
- Estimated number of jobs created by the subsidy, broken down by full-time, part-time and temporary positions.
A district will not need to return any money to the SAB if the surplus property is sold more than ten years after the funds were used for the property or if it is sold to a charter school, school district, county office of education, or any agency that will use the property exclusively for child care and development services. Additionally, the refunding requirements would not apply if the district leases the property or if it uses the proceeds of the sale for capital outlay.
Assembly Bill 1030 provides guidance as to what the governing board of a community college district may do if a student member’s seat becomes vacant during his or her term. Specifically, AB 1030 provides that if the seat of a student member becomes vacant during his or her term, the governing board may authorize the officers of the student body association to appoint a student to serve the remainder of the term in accordance with procedures established by the governing board.
Senate Bill 150 will authorize community college districts to exempt a student, attending a community college as a special part-time student, from paying nonresident tuition at the community college. Currently, the Governing Board of a school district allows students, that the school district has determined would benefit from advanced scholastic or vocational work, to attend a community college as special part-time or full-time students. In addition, community college districts are currently authorized to admit nonresident students but are required to charge the students a nonresident tuition fee. Through June 30, 2013, the per-unit nonresident fee was two times the amount of the resident fee. Beginning July 1, 2013, the per-unit nonresident fee was changed to three times the amount of the resident fee. Currently, community colleges are only authorized to exempt special part-time students from paying the $46 per unit per semester enrollment fee.
In addition, AB 449 specifies that failing to report misconduct to the CTC may result in serious penalties for a superintendent. Specifically, failing to report employee misconduct will constitute unprofessional conduct and could subject the superintendent to adverse actions by the CTC. In addition, refusing or willfully neglecting to make the report will now be a misdemeanor, punishable by not less than $500 or more than $1,000. If such a fine is imposed, it will be the personal responsibility of the superintendent.
This legislation codifies, in the Education Code, the reporting obligation on superintendents that currently appears as a part of the state’s administrative regulations in the California Code of Regulations, title 5, section 80303.
Currently, state law prohibits schools from allowing access to pupil records to any person without parental consent or judicial order, unless under special circumstances. Assembly Bill 1068 loosens this prohibition by allowing pupil records to be released to a pupil who is at least 14 years of age, a homeless child or youth, and an unaccompanied youth. This legislation also bars the release of directory information of a pupil who is a homeless youth or child, unless a parent or eligible pupil has given written consent that such information may be released. This amendment to Education Code sections 49073 and 49076 will enable many homeless children to access necessary information needed when seeking community agency assistance. School districts should revise all relevant record policies and procedures to reflect this legislative amendment.
Continuation School Placement
Education law is constantly changing to reflect changes in technology and the way children learn. While these new laws are set to help children acquire a better education, legal guidelines related to education can make paperwork and compliance a difficult task for public school administrators. Here are the five recent changes in education law that are sure to impact schools the most.
Federal programs that provide funding to schools require states to pass laws related to mandatory teacher evaluations in order to qualify. These evaluations require school administrators to observe each teacher during a class period in order to determine whether the teacher is properly adhering to academic guidelines set forth by the federal government. Recommendations are made based on these observations, and it is possible for a teacher to be terminated due to a poor evaluation.
Collective Bargaining Bans
While bans on collective bargaining for educators have only been passed in five states, teachers working in states that have banned the negotiating tool are concerned about the impact that these bans will have on their work environment.
Public schools may see a slight drop in attendance as states continue to pass legislation that allows low-income families to be granted vouchers to use at private schools. Each state that offers vouchers to students sets forth the guidelines that must be met in order for a student to be considered eligible. Income level is usually the determining factor for voucher eligibility.
There have been regulations in place in the public school system that require administrators to fire teachers who have been on staff the shortest amount of time when budget cuts must be made. However, states including Illinois have done away with these regulations. It has now been recognized that seniority in the classroom does not necessary mean quality.
States that have enacted a merit pay system have done so in an attempt to increase the quality of education across the board. Teachers working in these states are paid according to their students’ performance. Low test grades and high rates of student absence will lead to lower pay for teachers, and states that use this method of paying teachers hope that teachers will be motivated to perform.
Recent changes in education law impact the lives of teachers, students and administrators working in the public school system. It is important for administrators to consult an attorney to ensure compliance with these laws.
Parents who live in the state of California should be aware of their rights under the Brown Act (the “Act”). The Act, which was passed by the California Legislature, guarantees the right of the public to attend and participate in meetings that are held by local legislative bodies. School boards and other educational bodies fall into this category, so they must therefore allow the public to attend and participate in their meetings. The Brown Act is located in sections 54950 to 54962 of the California Government Code, and it is often referred to as the “open meeting act.”
Why does this matter to parents? The Act ensures their right to take an active part in the education of their children. While participation in organizations like the PTA can help keep parents informed of events at their children’s schools, attending meetings that are held by local school boards and other organizations allows them to stay abreast of important changes that can affect their children’s education in the district in which they reside. Without the passage of the Brown Act, school boards and other bodies could hold undisclosed, impromptu, informal meetings thereby leaving parents and the general public out of the loop.
Secret meetings are problematic for a number of reasons. Most notably, they may be conducted to avoid public scrutiny regarding controversial or unpopular topics. For parents who like to stay informed about developments in local public education, this poses many serious problems.
Some argue that it is nearly impossible to enforce the Brown Act. Violation of the Act is considered a misdemeanor, but how are secret meetings supposed to be detected? Proponents argue that the mere threat of being charged with a misdemeanor is enough to prompt most legislative bodies to obey the law.
Under the terms of the Brown Act, at least 72 hours of advance notice must be given for a regular meeting, and the agenda must be posted publicly. Minutes must be taken and made available to the public. At least 24 hours of advance notice must be given for a special meeting, and the agenda must be posted at least 24 hours ahead of time. Only items listed on the agenda may be discussed. In the case of an emergency meeting, one-hour notice must be provided by phone to local media outlets, and only items that are listed on the disclosed agenda may be discussed.
Closed sessions are permitted for cases involving pending litigation, personnel matters, labor negotiations, public security and real estate negotiations. They may also be conducted for matters regarding student discipline, but the body must vote and take subsequent action publicly.
By understanding the Brown Act, parents can protect their right to take active, informed roles in their childrens’ educations.