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Knowledge is power

Cynthia E. Griffin- | 1/9/2009, 5 p.m.

The state legislature and the governor have pushed through a number of education bills that went into effect Jan. 1, which are designed to improve the future for young people in the state.

In fact, one bill (AB428, Carter), mandates that parents of high school students be notified whether or not their child's studies meet the requirements for admission to the California State University or the University of California. It also requires notification about career technical education.

According to Lupita Alcala, director of legislative affairs in the California Department of Education, prior to the passage of the legislation this was not a requirement, consequently some schools did it and others did not. One of the chief concerns of lawmakers which prompted this law was the low college-going rate for students of color.

Legislators have allocated between $157 and $314 million to cover the cost of this mandated requirement.

A similar bill, (SB405, Steinberg), requires that middle and high school students in public schools be informed by counselors of graduation requirements as well as be given information on career technical education and admittance to the Cal State and U.C. systems. This law applies to those school district that have taken advantage of $200 million in funding provided earlier this year to beef up counseling staffs.

Additionally, counselors are supposed to conduct an individual review of student's career goals and explore the availability of community and work place learning experiences with young people.

Steinberg authored another critical education bill (SB219) aimed at preventing schools from dumping students who might pull down a district's Academic Performance Index (API) scores into alternative education sites.

Currently, Alcala said just before testing, some schools transfer low performing students into alternative education because the scores of these campuses had not been counted in figuring a district's API scores.

That changes now, and by July 1, 2011 all test scores of pupils enrolled in alternative programs, including community schools, will be counted in a district's API. Additionally by that same date, the drop-out rate for students in the eighth and ninth grades will also be factored into district's API scores.

This inclusion is predicated on two factors--reliable data must be available, and schools must receive the per pupil funding allocation to implement the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, otherwise know as the unique student identifier.

Alcala said the department of education estimates it will cost $32 million a year to implement this identification system state wide.

Last year the governor allocated a three-year total of $65 million to implement the system, but a $14 billion deficit forced the legislature to cut the money out.

The legislative affairs director said they will know on Jan. 10, if this money has been put into this year's budget.

Another bill, requires that parents or guardians of first-time youthful offenders who are in custody and deemed to be involved in gang-related activities, pay for anti-gang violence classes. The 10-hour curriculum (required under AB1291, Mendoza) will be developed by the state department of justice, and while there is no mandate for judges to require the classes, or local jurisdictions to offer them, parents who are financial able will have to pay for the course, if it is required.

Finally, SB20 (Torlakson) gives the state board of education additional guidelines on approving petitions to operate a state charter school unless the campus will provide instructional services "of a state-wide benefit that cannot be provided by a local charter school."

In addition, Alcala said the legislation requires that operators who are applying for a state-benefit charter schools notify all the local educational agencies prior to submitting an application.

This new law mist be followed required by any charter school operation that applies for part of $18 million in facility grant funding that is also part of the legislation.