One of two education bills authored by the area’s assemblyman has advanced, and the second is waiting for a vote from a policy committee that heard both pieces of legislation this week.
Two bills authored by Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, were heard Wednesday in the Assembly Education Committee, according to a press release from Pérez’s office.
The first measure, Assembly Bill 2203, seeks to improve educational outcomes for students by requiring children to begin their formal education with kindergarten at age 5. The bill passed on a vote of 6-4 and now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“Kindergarten today is what first grade used to be — students are expected to possess a variety of skills necessary for success in subsequent grades,” said Pérez. “Given the increasing rigor of the early grades, kindergarten attendance has become critical to setting a young learner on a pathway for educational success.”
While California law requires school districts to offer kindergarten programs, it does not make attendance compulsory. Kindergarten attendance is already compulsory in 15 states.
Assembly Bill 2537, to be voted on next week, was presented before the committee for discussion while amendments are under negotiation.
The bill modifies student discipline “zero tolerance” policies related to mandatory suspensions, expulsions and law enforcement notifications and providing school districts with the discretion to determine appropriate disciplinary actions for certain student offenses.
“Zero tolerance policies were written over a decade ago with the best of intentions — to prevent school violence,” said Pérez. “However, the way the policy is written has resulted in an epidemic of suspensions and expulsions.
“My bill seeks to empower our local schools to determine appropriate punishments, while still maintaining school safety and complying with federal requirements,” he added. “I am committed to working with the committee and stakeholders to determine appropriate amendments and look forward to next week’s vote.”
Current zero tolerance laws require that students must always be suspended or expelled if they commit an offense from a list that is general in description, depriving schools the ability to determine individualized disciplinary actions. The result is that many students are being expelled or suspended from school for low-level offenses — such as dress code violations and cell phone usage. In the 2009-2010 school year, 750,000 out-of-school “zero tolerance” based punishments were given.
To read the full text of the bills, go to www.leginfo.ca.gov
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