Ed Policy: Four Key Education & Workforce Bills Endorsed by SVLG Advance in CA’s 2021 Legislative Session

Good news for folks who care about advancing education and workforce diversity in California.

With last week’s Appropriations hearings in Sacramento, SVLG’s education-related bill package – AB 99, AB 1456, AB 927, and SB 22 – is one crucial step closer to becoming state ed policy. 

Let’s break it down. 

The headliners: AB 99 and AB 1456 may be the most ambitious and impactful education bills the Leadership Group has ever supported. 

The first, AB 99, introduced by Assembly Member Irwin, would establish a Cradle-to-Career Data System between all segments of education and the state’s workforce and licensing agencies. California is one of only eight states without a data system to track student pathways from K–12 to college and into the workplace. This means that stakeholders (read: all of us!) lack the ability to monitor how students fare during key transition points, such as the transition from K-12 to post-secondary. It also means we can’t assess the long-term efficacy of interventions or investments. AB 99 would go far to rectify this.

The second, AB 1456, from Assembly Members Medina and McCarty, would overhaul California’s outdated and confusing financial aid system. Today, the system supports 400,000 students seeking postsecondary education with a legislative appropriation of over $2 billion, dispersed through – steady yourself – the High School Entitlement Cal Grant A and B awards, California Community College Transfer Entitlement Cal Grant A and B awards, Competitive Cal Grant A and B awards, and the Cal Grant C award. It is a complex landscape of overlapping grants navigated well neither by counselors nor students, and its eligibility requirements and opacity exclude or drastically underfund nearly 200,000 students across California, the majority of whom are women and people of color. AB 1456 proposes to simplify the system, tie funding more concretely to need, and do away with eligibility requirements like “time out of high school” that reduce the state’s pool of qualified talent.

In terms of need and potential impact, SB 22 and AB 927 aren’t dancing around the edges either. SB 22, from Senator Glazer’s office, would place a $15 billion bond on the 2022 ballot to fund the construction, reconstruction and remodeling of facilities at public preschools, K-12 schools, colleges and universities. The first priority of SVLG’s Education and Workforce portfolio is to diversify and strengthen the STEM talent pipeline. To do this, we must at baseline ensure that all California students are provided with safe, stable learning environments. In the 2015–16 and 2018–19 fiscal years alone, 108 K-12 schools closed more than once due to poor facility conditions – gas leaks, heating system failures, broken water pipes, pest infestations, mold and asbestos. And many of you may remember EdSource’s vital reporting on the dangerous lead levels in water fountains at schools across California. It seems a truism to say that these issues need to be resolved immediately.

Finally, AB 927, by Assembly Members Medina and Choi, would allow California community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in specific in-demand technical fields like automotive technology, industrial automation and biomanufacturing in consultation with the UCs and CSUs. Minimum GPA requirements for admissions into CSUs (2.5, with allowances down to 2.0) and UCs (3.0) currently preclude students from applying to those systems after high school, effectively closing off routes to bachelor’s degrees for tens of thousands of Californians. Given the state’s workforce needs – the Public Policy Institute estimates that by 2030 California will have a shortage of 1.1 million workers holding a bachelor’s degree – SVLG supports programs to expand pathways to these degrees.

While we’ve long been proud to bring a business voice into education and workforce-development conversations, SVLG is particularly excited to advocate in Sacramento for this 2021 legislative package – bills that pave a clear path toward strengthening and diversifying our workforce.

May 24, 2021