Portantino Bills Clear Assembly Education Committee
For Immediate Release: June 30, 2022
Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400
Portantino Bills Clear Assembly Education Committee
Mental Health, Teacher Shortage, Waste Reduction, and Special Education Set to Benefit
Sacramento, CA – Senate Bills 941, 1302, 1255, and 1016, authored by State Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge), passed the Assembly Education Committee. SB 941 seeks to address teacher shortages and improve learning environments, while student wellness takes center stage in SB 1302. SB 1255 would reduce waste in schools through a dishwasher program and SB 1016 enhances special education services for individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
SB 941 – Dual Immersion & Teacher Shortage
During the 2017-18 school year, 80% of California school districts faced a shortage of teachers. Nine out of ten school districts stated that the shortage was getting worse. Some impacted local educational agencies are canceling important dual-language immersion classes due to the shortage of qualified credentialed teachers, which can negatively affect future educational attainment and economic prospects.
“The shortage of teachers – especially in the math, science, and bilingual education courses – continues to impact kids and their learning environment,” stated Senator Portantino. “A great alternative to class cancellations or emergency teacher credentials is inter-district collaboration for STEM and dual immersion courses. If one district has an available spot in a classroom and another district has a student in need, let’s cut out the bureaucracy and allow those districts to easily work out cooperative sharing arrangements that will present educational opportunities for students who otherwise would miss out on these courses.”
SB 941 would authorize school districts to locally determine inter-district collaboration for courses related to STEM and dual language immersion. The bill was inspired by comments the Senator received from parents in the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD).
“The pandemic set up unique complications for language immersion families. Senator Portantino heard our concerns and we are grateful for him and his staff’s work on SB 941. These past few years have proven to be especially challenging with academic learning loss, but also with target language loss for the dual language student. These students will be forced to drop out of their target language program if they aren’t able to make vital gains in their target language comprehension and mastery. We are hopeful that districts will take advantage of SB 941, communicate with other neighboring districts providing similar programs, and create ways to overcome these educational losses for the benefit of language immersion students throughout the state,” stated Jane Potelle, PUSD Dual Language Immersion Program Parent.
SB 1302 – Student Wellness Centers
Recent studies suggest that a majority of students are not currently receiving the emotional support they need. More than 75% of principals stated that the mental health needs of students were a problem on campus, and two-thirds of teachers said they were unequipped to deal with their students’ mental health needs.
“At a time when teachers and administrators are overwhelmed and our students need access to mental health resources more than ever, it is critical that we step up and increase emotional and mental help support on our campuses,” commented Senator Portantino. “The time is now to invest in our student’s wellbeing.”
SB 1302 would appropriate resources to the Superintendent of Public Instruction to provide annual grants of up to $250,000 to each California high school to establish or improve student wellness centers. The bill would require grant funds to provide comprehensive medical and behavioral health services, including activities that will help students to be healthy in body, mind, and spirit in order to learn successfully. SB 1302 would authorize grant funds to be used for personnel to support pupil health.
SB 1255 – Single-Use Waste Reduction in Schools
SB 1255 was inspired by the Glendale Environmental Coalition and seeks to combat the state’s single-use trash and waste crisis by reducing waste in K–12 schools and community colleges.
“It turns out we had it right decades ago when schools washed and reused plates, knives, and forks,” stated Senator Portantino. “It’s time to step up efforts to reduce single-use waste in our schools and installing commercial dishwashers can pave the way for safe and reusable food ware. I am very grateful to the Glendale Environmental Coalition for suggesting the bill idea and its creative solutions to eliminating single-use waste while we teach students the value of conservation and environmental protection.”
Commercial dishwashers use little water, heat to high temperatures for complete sanitation, dry quickly, and are fast and energy efficient, lowering the number of single used products. Machines have 15-year lifecycle, provide significant financial savings over time and offset waste management costs that continue to rise. SB 1255 would establish the Dishwasher Grant Program for waste reduction in K–12 Schools and Community Colleges and would be administered by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. Under the proposal, grants of up to $40,000 would be awarded per kitchen of a school or campus.
"It's simple. Dishwashers are the key! This bill provides a momentous opportunity for educational facilities in California to move back to reusable foodware in their cafeterias,” stated Monica Campagna of the Glendale Environmental Coalition. “As we provide the means to get dishwashers back in schools, we offer the key to reducing a massive amount of single-use waste in our state, to addressing the plastic pollution crisis, to reducing litter on campuses, to reducing hauling fees and to teaching our kids to value our resources and the habit of reuse. And importantly, schools get to cut the cost of continually purchasing throw away foodware from their budgets. It is being looked at by districts not only across our state, but across the country, as others are inspired to create similar legislation. Why? Because it just makes sense! And it will make a huge difference."
SB 1016 – Special Education
Students with the most prevalent developmental disability in the US are being under-served in school districts across the state, with detrimental lifelong consequences. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is currently not a recognized category for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It is also not named as a disorder under the Other Health Impaired category by the California Department of Education.
“With early intervention and appropriate education services, individuals with an FASD can achieve their full potential and lead productive lives,” stated Senator Portantino. “For this reason, it’s critical that we include FASD as part of special education services. Failure to do so will have detrimental effects for children and their families.”
SB 1016 requires FASD to be included under the “other health impairment” definition for Individual Education Plans (IEPs). The bill also expands eligibility for students with FASD to receive the special education and related services they deserve and need.
“We are grateful that SB 1016 passed the Assembly Education Committee with bipartisan support. For advocates in the field and impacted families, the prospect of improving outcomes for students struggling with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders is an important step forward,” stated Christine Clifford with FASD Now!, a sponsor of SB 1016. “We look forward to seeing the bill advance to the Governor’s desk,” she added.
Senator Portantino has long been advocating for policies that improve mental health and education outcomes for our youth. He has authored legislation that implements mental health education and training in schools, requires early screening for risk of dyslexia, and requires schools to print the suicide hotline on student identification cards. Additionally, the Senator dedicated three years to pass SB 328, which pushes back school start times for middle and high schools.