Coronavirus update: Passage of Senate Bill 117 offers relief to school districts, COEs

On Monday, March 16, the Legislature and the Governor took special action to support agencies grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, including passage of SB 117, a bill providing relief to school districts, county offices of education, and childcare centers. CSBA appreciates the swift work to pass legislation that will provide relief to public schools coping with the impact of COVID-19.

SB 117, which directly reflects the advocacy of CSBA and other members of the Education Coalition, provides $100 million to local education agencies (LEA) to purchase personal protective equipment and pay for supplies and labor costs related to cleaning school facilities. The funding will be apportioned to LEAs on an ADA basis with no less than $250 per school site. The bill also ensures that LEAs will continue to receive funding even if they took extraordinary measures like school closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SB 117, an emergency measure that takes effect immediately, will give LEAs flexibility in providing services to students during an uncertain and unprecedented time:

Specifically, SB 117:

1. Provides that for LEAs claiming attendance for the 2019-20 school year for purposes of school funding, the school year shall include only full school months between July 1, 2019 and February 29, 2020, rather than through April, in recognition of the number of local districts that have closed schools to limit spread of the virus.

2. Expresses Legislative intent that LEAs receiving apportionment ensure that employees and contractors are compensated and paid during the time a school is closed due to COVID-19, as reasonably anticipated if the school had not been closed.

3. Waives Education Code provisions regarding instructional day and minute requirements for LEAs that closed schools due to COVID-19 to remove real and perceived penalties that might arise if classroom time is not made up by the end of the school year.

4. Requires the superintendent of a school district, county superintendent of schools, or administrator of a charter school to certify in writing to the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) that the school was closed due to COVID-19 and provide any additional information related to the school closure, as requested, in order to qualify for continued funding.

5. Allows a charter school that does not have an independent study program or a distance learning program in its currently approved charter petition to offer those services without having to submit a material revision to its authorizer.

6. Ensures continuity of funding for the After-School Education and Safety Program (ASES) if a school closed due to COVID-19.

7. Requires the SPI, by June 30, 2020, develop informal directives and bulletins, in compliance with Executive Orders, to address contractual and reporting requirements applicable for the 2019-20 fiscal year for childcare and development programs impacted by COVID-19. These programs shall be reimbursed using the most recent certified record or invoice available.

8. Extends the testing window for the English language proficiency assessment required by statute by 45 days. For all other required assessments, including the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, the testing window will be extended by the number of days a school site is closed.

9. Specifies that the California Department of Education shall consider the days a school is closed due to COVID-19 as days between a pupil’s regular school session up to when the school reopens, and the regular session reconvenes to determine an LEAs compliance with special education timelines and services provisions.

10. Allows state subsidized childcare and development programs, including State Preschool program, general childcare, CalWORKs childcare and the Alternative Payment programs that comply with the Governor’ s executive order, to have their attendance and reporting requirements waived, as specified.

11. Extends the timelines for the Uniform Complaint Process by the length of a school’s closure due to COVID-19.

On Tuesday, March 17, Gov. Newsom’s administration is expected to provide more detail on what it will ask of schools during the closures. CSBA will provide an update on that announcement and any new legislative developments related to schools and COVID-19.

After passing SB 117, the Legislature adjourned until April 13, temporarily halting the legislative year in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Find more coronavirus updates and resources from CSBA