The California Legislature rang in the 2021–22 session in socially distanced style on Monday, Dec. 7, swearing in members and announcing priorities for the coming year. Senators and Assemblymembers wasted no time in introducing 185 new pieces of legislation for consideration when they return in January 2021, including a number of notable education proposals covering the reopening of schools during the COVID-19 crisis, expanding broadband access, early learning programs and funding for school facilities. Four bills introduced indicate the Legislature will make broadband access a priority, reflecting CSBA’s consistent advocacy for universal broadband since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- School reopening:
- Assembly Bill 10 (Ting, D-San Francisco) would require schools to publicly present a plan to resume in-person learning within two weeks of their county moving into red, orange or yellow tiers, beginning March 1, 2021. The bill would allow districts to choose whether to return to all in-person learning or use a hybrid model. LEAs in non-purple counties still maintain the authority to determine when to provide in-person learning during the 2020–21 school year, how that learning is provided and how long it is provided.
- Broadband access:
- AB 14 (Aguiar Curry, D-Winters) would extend the ongoing collection of funds deposited into the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to provide communities with grants to bridge the digital divide.
- AB 34 (Muratsuchi, D-Torrance), would place a general obligation bond measure of up to $10 billion on the November 2022 ballot to fund increased access to broadband services to rural, urban, suburban, and tribal unserved and underserved communities.
- AB 41 (Wood-Santa Rosa) would update California’s “dig once” policy for telecommunications infrastructure to expedite the deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities.
- Senate Bill 4 (Gonzalez, D-Long Beach) would extend the collection of CASF surcharge funds for broadband expansion grants, make communities eligible for grants based on their true internet need, and promote deployment of high-speed broadband. The bill would also create the Broadband Bond Financing Securitization Account to fund costs related to broadband bond financing and securities, including the deployment of infrastructure by local governments or nonprofits.
- Early learning:
- Facilities bonds:
- AB 75 (O’Donnell, D-Long Beach) would place the Kindergarten-Community Colleges Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2022 on the ballot in 2022 to fund the construction and modernization of education facilities.
- SB 22 (Glazer, D-Orinda) would place the Public Preschool, K–12, and College Health and Safety Bond Act of 2022 on the ballot in 2022 to provide $15 billion in funding to construct and modernize education facilities.
As of now, CSBA has taken no formal positions on these measures. These bills and others will be taken to the Legislative Committee for consideration of formal positions beginning in January.