New bills would increase CTE and K-12 mental health funding

New bills would increase CTE and K-12 mental health funding

(Calif.) New bills introduced last week aim to boost career technical education spending, improve collaboration between school districts and county mental health systems, and push for a single, statewide database to collect and store long-term student data.

AB 1303, authored by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach and chair of the Assembly Education Committee, would provide an additional $150 million to K-12 CTE programs.

“We must offer students options,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “Not every student will go to college, and not every job requires a college degree. We have a shortage of workers for jobs requiring technical skills, (and) the state needs to increase its efforts to meet those needs.”

CTE and similar models such as linked learning have become increasingly popular among policymakers throughout the country in recent years as a viable option for developing work readiness skills and preparing future workers for jobs that require some postsecondary education but not necessarily a four-year degree.

Some states, including Arkansas, Virginia, Alabama and Wisconsin, have gone so far as to adopt graduation standards that encourage or require participation in CTE.

In California, lawmakers appropriated a total of $500 million in one-time grant money to support programs that linked rigorous academic curriculum with career pathways beginning in 2013 and 2014. A year later, the Legislature and former-Gov. Jerry Brown agreed to provide another $900 million over three years for similar programs. Additional funding was included in the state’s 2018-19 budget as well.

Career pathways in many districts now include courses related to jobs in agriculture, media arts, building trades, engineering and architecture, health care, information technology, fashion design and various public services.

O’Donnell’s AB 1303 builds upon last year’s appropriation of $300 million in ongoing funding for CTE programs. His bill would increase that funding to $450 million and, he said, make it easier for school districts to apply for funding and meet accountability requirements by aligning two existing programs under the direction of the California Department of Education.

Additionally, the bill would reduce the required match from a grant applicant to $1 for each $1 received through the California Career Technical Education Incentive Grant Program beginning this coming fiscal year. Currently, recipients are required to provide a match of $2 for each $1 they receive from the program.

SB 582, authored by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, calls on the state Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission to allocate at least half of grant funds to local educational agency and mental health partnerships to support prevention, early intervention and direct services.

The bill would also annually appropriate $15 million each fiscal year to the commission for the purpose of grants.

Beall has often advocated for increased mental health services for students. In 2016, Brown approved of a measure introduced by Beall that aimed to improve how services were delivered to children eligible for mental health supports.

AB 1466, authored by Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, reflects a growing desire among lawmakers to more efficiently track long-term student data.

According to a report released in December by the Public Policy Institute of California, the state’s current education data systems are fragmented, which prevents state and local policymakers from being able to answer even the most basic questions about whether or not financial investments are paying off or if the programs are effective.

One issue researchers noted in the existing California Longitudinal Pupil Assessment and Data System, or CalPADS, was that the system wasn’t linked to any of the major databases maintained by other state agencies that also have important responsibilities over child welfare and education.

A bill separate from Irwin’s bill is an intent bill was introduced last month in the Senate, and would establish a more efficient statewide database to collect and store student data as children move from early education and into the workforce.

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