Lawmakers consider LCFF increase and safety measures

Lawmakers consider LCFF increase and safety measures

(Calif.) A bill limiting the use of restraint and seclusion techniques and another that would increase the state’s per-pupil spending targets passed a key legislative committee as the end of the current session quickly nears.

AB 2657 would prohibit teachers or other school staff members from using a behavioral restraint or secluding students as a means of coercion, discipline, convenience or retaliation.

Meanwhile, AB 2808 would increase the per-student base grant funding targets for school districts and charter schools under the Local Control Funding Formula.

Currently, the base grant target rates for high school students is $9,268 per-child for the 2018-19 fiscal year. The bill, authored by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, would increase that target amount to $14,661 beginning in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

“Despite significant increases in school funding that we have been able to accomplish in recent years, those funding increases are not keeping pace with the increases in costs that school districts are facing in upcoming years,” Muratsuchi told members of the Senate education committee during a hearing late last month. “AB 2808 is proposing Local Control Funding Formula base grant funding targets that will maintain the existing formula while establishing funding targets to provide full and fair funding for all California children regardless of where they live.”

Through the LCFF, base target amounts are set for each student, with adjustments for different student grade levels. Schools receive supplemental funding for low-income students, English learners and foster youth.

With his 2018-19 state budget, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed to fully fund LCFF two years ahead of schedule, dedicating $3 billion in new funding to the formula. Still, advocates for increased education spending note that even at full implementation of LCFF, California will still have among the lowest per-pupil funding rates in the nation.

The current base grant target rates for each grade span for the 2018-19 fiscal year are $8,236 for grades K-3; $7,571 for grades 4-6; $7,796 for grades 7-8; and $9,268 for grades 9-12.

Under AB 2808, those base grant funding targets would increase to $13,026 for grades K-3; $11,975 for grades 4-6; $12,332 for grades 7-8; and $14,661 for grades 9-12.

Representatives from Children Now and Education Trust-West told committee members that although they support the policy, they are concerned that districts are not doing enough to explain how additional money already provided by the state under LCFF is being used to improve outcomes for at-risk subgroups.

Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica and chair of the committee noted that while there is still a lot more work to be done to increase transparency in local spending, that was a separate issue, and not a reason to vote against Muratsuchi’s bill.

Meanwhile, AB 2657 authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, would only allow for the use of seclusion or behavioral restraints if a student’s behavior presents an imminent danger of serious physical harm to themselves or others. If a student is restrained or seclusion is used, administrators must schedule a meeting no later than 2 school days after with the child’s parent or guardian, as well as any staff members involved in the incident.

Among other changes, the bill would also prohibit the use of restraints that restrict breathing or obstructs a student’s respiratory airway. Any use of seclusion or behavioral restraint for the purpose of coercion, discipline, convenience or retaliation would also be prohibited.

A committee analysis of the bill raised questions about whether or not AB 2657 could end up discouraging school personnel from intervening when students display behaviors that endanger themselves or others.

“I want to stress that this bill does not prohibit restraint and seclusion,” Weber told lawmakers. “We’re talking about minimum safeguards.”