A “Brief” Review of Past Developments
Now that legislative session is over, it’s time for a quick recap. There’s been some good and some not so good. First, the good stuff. A lot of us were waiting for Governor Schwarzenegger to get back from his Asian trade mission to see what he was going to do with the large stack of bills sitting on his desk for signatures. We were ecstatic to learn that he signed Senate bill 1357. This was a major step forward. SB 1357 includes attendance data in California’s longitudinal data system and moves the state towards the development of an attendance-based early warning system that is critical for identifying students at risk of dropping out or graduating with low-levels of college and career readiness. We know that chronic absence is one of the best predictors of whether a student will drop out. Yet, attendance is a widely ignored data indicator in the collection and reporting of education data. With SB 1357, schools and educators may be able to get the data they need to utilize one of the most basic predictors of a student’s success in school in order to help prevent them from dropping out. We applaud Senate President pro tem Steinberg for authoring this bill and everyone who supported it in committee and on the floor. The same goes to Governor Schwarzenegger for signing the bill – although, after the Governor’s recent conditional veto of the funding for CALPADs and CALTIDES, has taken some of the luster off. Hopefully, in the future, with a new Governor, the Department of Finance will not be able to prevent beneficial education reforms from seeing the light of day.
Along with SB 1357, we were pleased when the Governor signed SB 1440 and AB 2302. These bills greatly simplify the confusing transfer pathway between community colleges and four-year colleges. Now, students who successfully complete 60 units of transferable coursework at a community college will be awarded an associate’s degree and receive guaranteed admission with upper division junior standing to the CSU. AB 2302 will strengthen the transfer reforms enacted in SB 1440 by requesting that the University of California develop a similar pathway for students wishing to transfer into the UC. We congratulate the sponsor of the bills, the Campaign for College Opportunity and commend Senator Alex Padilla, the author of SB 1440, and Assembly member Paul Fong, author of AB 2302, and the Governor.
If anything, our most recent Equity Alert on community college transfers shows us just how important these bills are for California. According to our analysis of community college students, after two years, only 6 percent of students system-wide who have shown intent to transfer to a four-year institution were actually able to do so. The rates of transfer for African-American and Latino students were even worse. Only 4 percent of African-American students and 3 percent of Latino students who show intent to transfer actually did after two years. What our Equity Alert shows is just how much California’s community college system is not living up to the spirit of The California Master Plan for Higher Education which identified the transfer pathway as part of a commitment to higher education access for all Californians. Our analysis shows just how much the system is failing those students who view their time at a community college as a means to complete a bachelor’s degree and build a better future. There is still much work to be done in this area though and Ed Trust-West will doing a lot more work in the area of higher education and making sure that California has the college graduates it needs to be competitive and innovative.
As for the not so good stuff…. We waited 100 days for the legislature and Governor to give us a budget. That’s a record. The budget has never been that late before. Around Day 80, we joined with a number of California’s leading advocacy groups, including Alliance for a Better Community (ABC), Californians for Justice Education Fund, Children Now, InnerCity Struggle, and Public Advocates to call on state leaders to pass a budget that protects education and provides funding for other critical services for children and families. Even though they passed a budget, we expected better. K-12 education and other social services received the most severe cuts meaning that our neediest children and families once again had to bear the greatest sacrifice. If anything, now is the time for us to invest in our children or we risk the future of California. It is long past time to find a long-term budgetary solution for our state that place the interests of children first. Hopefully, the election will bring us the public officials we need to end this insane gridlock.
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