Teacher housing, after-school funding bills ignored

Teacher housing, after-school funding bills ignored

(Calif.) Bills that would’ve increased funding for after-school programs and provided financial assistance to create affordable housing for teachers are among those left to die this legislative session.

Also missing last month’s deadline for moving forward was Assembly Bill 1572, which would have required public, non-charter schools that receive Title 1 federal funding to provide free transportation to and from school to all students living at least a half-mile away and in neighborhoods considered unsafe.

Advocates for the After School Education and Safety Program had argued that an additional $73 million was needed in order to maintain existing services – activities at more than 4,000 schools for students in ninth grade and below.

Although Gov. Jerry Brown has appropriated $550 million in this year’s budget for ASES programs, it’s not enough to cover costs, which have increased by nearly 19 percent. Funding, however, has remained flat since 2006.

“We’ve seen our staffing cost increase 33 percent over the past 10 years while our funding has been stagnate,” Jessica Gunderson, policy director at the Partnership for Children & Youth, part of a coalition of groups that sponsored the legislation, told Cabinet Report last month.

“Even if you excluded the hikes in the minimum wage, our cost of doing business has gone up from anywhere between 18 and 19 percent,” she said.

Although the ASES Program provides after-school activities serving more than 400,000 K-9 students statewide, a recent survey of participating districts found almost 75 percent have had to cut back.

In addition to providing an increase in funding, AB 2663 by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, would also have imposed an automatic annual adjustment based on the consumer price index.

The additional $73 million would have increased the average daily attendance rate for program providers from $7.50 to $8.50 per student – an increase of 13 percent.

Legislation to create a $100 million grant program aimed at providing affordable housing for teachers was also left on the Appropriations Committee table.

AB 2200, authored by Richmond Democrat Tony Thurmond, would have required the California Housing Finance Agency to administer a grant program to provide development financing assistance to a qualified school district and to a qualified developer for the creation of affordable rental housing for school employees, including teachers

Thurmond’s bill was one of numerous legislative proposals designed to address a severe teacher shortage that has left many districts scrambling to find enough qualified educators to fill thousands of available jobs. Some would offer housing subsidies, signing bonuses and student loan forgiveness programs to education graduates who agree to work in hard-to-staff schools and subjects, such as math, science and special education.

Law makers weren’t keen on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s AB 1572, which would have revised existing law governing the authority of a school district to contract and pay for the transportation of all pupils.

The bill would have required districts not currently providing transportation to all pupils attending schools that receive Title 1 federal funding to implement a plan to ensure that all entitled pupils receive free transportation. Under the law, the plan would have had to accommodate homeless youth.

Sponsored by the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the Children's Defense Fund, and Youth Justice Coalition, AB 1572 was designed to increase opportunities for disadvantaged youth by ensuring students who attend the poorest schools in California do not face barriers to getting to school. According to a 2015 report from the California Attorney General, the inability to afford transportation to and from school is one of the most frequently cited barriers that low-income youth face in attending school.

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