New Laws for California Schools: AB 1353, classified employee probationary period

8 Nov
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CSBA’s “New Laws for California Schools” series highlights new laws signed in 2019 affecting K-12 education. New laws are effective Jan. 1, 2020, unless otherwise noted. The What’s New for 2020 report on all new laws affecting education is available at www.csba.org/whatsnewfor2020.

Effective Jan. 1, 2020, Assembly Bill 1353 (Wicks, D-Oakland) will shorten the maximum probationary period for classified school district employees from the current maximum period (not exceeding one year) to a period not exceeding six months, or 130 days of paid service, whichever is longer.

Key points about AB 1353:

AB 1353 does not apply to school districts using a merit-based system for classified employee hiring. Merit system school districts already utilize a six-month probationary period and have the necessary processes and infrastructure to do so.

AB 1353 does not apply to county offices of education. Only school districts are specified in Education Code section 45113; this bill does not change the code in such a way that it would now impact COEs.

AB 1353 does not require school districts to move to a merit system or to adopt hiring processes mirroring a merit system. However, the shortened probationary timeline is likely to create challenges, some of which school districts can potentially offset by more closely evaluating candidates during the hiring process.

Collective bargaining agreements operative before Jan. 1, 2020, are honored. For school districts with a current CBA operative before Jan. 1, the statutory move to a six-month probationary period commences upon expiration of that agreement.

In preparation, school districts should consult with their human resources directors to review their evaluation process and make adjustments to comply and incorporate the shorter evaluation time period. Additionally, classified employment policies and forms should be reviewed and revised where appropriate to reflect this new law.

Background

The California School Personnel Commissioners Association, which houses resources for merit system districts, lists 93 local educational agencies (80 school districts and 13 county offices of education) that utilize a merit system. These districts have voluntarily adopted the system and continually budget for the infrastructure needed to implement it (i.e. creation of eligibility lists for hiring purposes and testing and evaluation procedures), whereas non-merit districts typically do not budget for such infrastructure.

Supporters of the bill submitted that it would create consistency and avoid confusion in hiring timelines by aligning merit districts and non-merit districts to the same six-month probationary period. However, the bill fails to recognize that non-merit school districts do not currently possess the necessary resources to conduct the hiring and evaluation of classified employees within a narrow six-month window.

The bill was designated “nonfiscal,” and as such does not create a reimbursable mandate. Therefore, AB 1353 does not provide a funding resource for school districts to develop the infrastructure needed to successfully carry out a six-month probationary period.

AB 1353 was opposed by CSBA, as shortening the probationary period (by half, in this case) may prevent an LEA from thoroughly and appropriately vetting the suitability of a new hire and ties the hands of school administrators in quickly removing those who demonstrate questionable behavior with students.

A coalition including the Association of California School Administrators, California Association of School Business Officials, the California Association of Joint Powers Authorities and others also opposed the measure.

AB 1353 was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 7 after passing the Legislature on Sept. 9. The bill was heard in the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee on April 24 and the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee on June 19, but was not heard in Education Committees in either house before being passed.

Education Code section(s) amended: 45113

CSBA sample policies impacted: BP 4216 – Probationary/Permanent Status

Questions? Email CSBA Governmental Relations or Legal Services.

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