On March 16, 2020, the California State Legislature introduced emergency legislation to address the state of emergency that Governor Gavin Newsom declared on March 4, 2020, in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Bill (SB) 89 appropriates at least $500 million and up to $1 billion from the General Fund to be used for any purpose related to the COVID-19 state of emergency. SB 117 institutes necessary changes in law for local educational agencies (LEAs) in line with Executive Order N-26-20 which the Governor issued on March 13.
Average Daily Attendance
For the purposes of apportionment for the 2019-20 school year, average daily attendance (ADA) reported to the California Department of Education (CDE) “shall only include all full school months from July 1, 2019, to February 29, 2020.” This condensed ADA period applies to LEAs that comply with Executive Order N-26-20, and the bill further states the intent of the Legislature that LEA’s employees and contractors are paid during the period of a school closure due to COVID-19. The bill also waives instructional time penalties that would otherwise accrue, as long as the school district superintendent, county superintendent or charter school administrator certify that the closure due to COVID-19 caused the LEA to fall below applicable instructional time requirements.
Assessment timelines for all students and English learners are amended by the emergency legislation. The testing window for the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC), and the Physical Fitness Test is extended “by the length of time a school is closed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), or until the end of the testing window, whichever comes first.” Additionally, the timeframe to assess students for English language proficiency is extended by 45 days, or a period otherwise determined by the SPI.
Uniform Complaint Process and Special Education Timelines
Other statutory timelines are also amended by SB 117. The timelines for the uniform complaint process are extended by the length of time a school is closed. Certain special education timelines related to a proposed assessment plan, a parent’s right to examine school records, and transfer of a student’s special education records from one LEA to another, are waived while a school is closed due to COVID-19. However, the bill clarifies that it does not waive any federal requirements under the Individual with Disabilities Education Act.
ASES and Childcare Programs
SB 117 also addresses considerations for certain educational programs. Average annual attendance for the After School Education and Safety (ASES) Program will be credited consistent with what the ASES grantee would have received if not for the school closure. And the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) will develop guidance and bulletins to address attendance, contractual, and reporting requirements for childcare and development programs.
Finally, SB 117 also includes an appropriation of $100 million to be distributed to LEAs to be used “to purchase personal protective equipment, or to pay for supplies and labor related to cleaning school sites, or both.” These funds will be distributed on the basis of “average daily attendance generated by LEAs that provide a classroom-based educational program to pupils after March 4, 2020, and before June 30, 2020.” LEAs will receive at least $250 per school site.
To expedite the passage of the emergency legislation, the Governor used his authority to waive the constitutionally required 72-hour period for legislation to be in print before being considered by the Legislature. The emergency measures passed the Legislature unanimously and will take effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.