Legislation update: Facilities bonds and computer science bills introduced

January 11, 2019 Staff Writer

Bill introduced on facilities bonds

Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, has introduced Assembly Bill 48 to place a K-12 and community colleges school facilities bond on both the 2020 and 2022 ballots.

“The state has a responsibility to ensure that students are housed in safe facilities that meet educational needs,” O’Donnell said. “AB 48 will continue the state’s partnership with local school and community college districts by providing state matching funds for construction. As a teacher, I know firsthand that the conditions of our schools affect student health, performance and motivation.”

The last school bond, Proposition 51, was passed by voters in November 2016. Funds for the construction of K-12 school projects from Prop. 51 have already been spoken for in unfunded approvals, but the state has only approved the sale of a small amount of those bonds.

“California’s skills gap is widening,” said Assembly member Jordan Cunningham, a co-author of the bill.  “While we have been successful in securing permanent funding to start new Career Technical Education programs, our schools still need dedicated funding to build state-of-the-art technical facilities.”

Researchers estimate the need for school facilities construction and modernization at more than $100 billion over the next decade.

Prop. 51 passed funding for $7 billion, and ACSA has been advocating for the state to sell the bonds ever since. In the post-recession era, facilities projects have languished badly. Even as the economy recovered, former Gov. Jerry Brown had been reluctant to commit the state to any new debt.

Bills introduced on computer science

Assembly member Marc Berman has introduced two bills to guide the state’s advancement of computer science education.

“Universal and early access to computer science education is critical to providing California’s students with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy,” Berman said. “Too many students don’t even have the opportunity to take computer science courses in California public schools.”

In September, the state adopted its first-ever computer science standards. Now, California is considering adopting a Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan. The plan would address broadening the pool of computer science teachers, defining computer science education principles that meet the needs of K-12 students, and ensuring that all students have access to quality computer science courses.

Assembly Bill 20 would create the California Computer Science Coordinator within the California Department of Education, a role needed to oversee the state’s successful implementation of the CSSIP, and AB 52 would require the CSSIP to be updated to ensure it remains relevant and reflects technological advancements.

“In today’s digitally driven world, technology is woven into the fabric of every company and every job,” said Kara Bush, spokesperson for the bill’s co-sponsor, the Computing Technology Industry Association. “Every California student deserves to be fully prepared to thrive in the 21st century. Location and socio-economic conditions should not be a barrier – regardless of whether you reside in the Central Valley, South Central LA, or East Palo Alto. All students deserve to be exposed to the same building blocks for success. We are proud to work with Assembly member Berman to take tangible steps that will provide access to new career opportunities for California students, and create a diverse and skilled employee pipeline that will attract and develop new companies in the Golden State.”

The Instructional Quality Commission and the Superintendent of Public Instruction are expected to recommend a draft CSSIP to the State Board of Education in March. The plan is based on recommendations made by an advisory panel earlier this year. The State Board of Education is required to consider adopting the plan on or before July 15.

“TechNet is proud to co-sponsor Assembly Bill 20 and Assembly Bill 52,” said Courtney Jensen, executive director for TechNet. “To prepare our students for the jobs of the future, it is essential that computer science must be taught in every California school. The U.S. faces a significant and growing computer science skills gap that is leaving too many of our young people unable to secure the high-paying job opportunities available to them in the innovation economy.”

There are nearly 571,000 open computing jobs nationwide according to Code.org. However, only slightly more than 49,000 students graduated with computer science degrees last year.

Statistics indicate that young women who take an Advanced Placement computer science course in high school are 10 times as likely to major in computer science in college. African American and Latino students are more than then seven times more likely to do so.

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