Newsom Budget Bill- The New Threat to all Independent Study Programs Across the State

As part of Governor Newsom’s May Budget Revision he is proposing a rewrite of the 1976 legislation authorizing independent study (IS).

His proposed changes will decimate IS across our state. These horrific changes apply to district, county office of ed, and charter school IS programs.

Policymakers have concerns that “Distance Learning“ didn’t work well for many students, and that students should be back in classrooms. I think that this is a legitimate concern but those programs that did not work well were not designed by those who run successful long time IS programs and the issue of the distance learning programs not working well will solve itself once the schools are open and students are given the option to return to their classrooms.

If legislators insist that we, as a state, need a legislative solution to a problem that will resolve itself then we need to kindly insist that our legislators create clear language in the bill that will protect our state’s long running IS programs and clarify what they want to see for “distance learning” programs that were created to temporarily provide a solution for student leaning during the pandemic. (FYI- These distance learning programs are already set to sunset on June 30, 2021, so new IS legislation is really not needed.)

There are multiple concerns with the language in the Governor’s budget trailer bill because the language will limit flexibility in how our IS schools and programs can serve the students who need them and have used them for years, students who may have been kicked out of other schools, ones who may be pregnant and trying to graduate from high school, students who may be parents or juggling other adult responsibilities, students who may be dealing with a life-threatening illness, ones who may have exceptional needs, or ones who have other reasons for needing a flexible independent study option.

I’m particularly supportive of independent study (IS) because my younger brother was born with a terminal genetic illness and IS was a blessing for him, unfortunately, he has passed and can not speak for himself on how the option helped him. As a mom of three students who do not fit the traditional model due to development delays and social anxiety, my own children also require this IS program option. Over the years through my service to families I have met hundreds of thousands of California students who need this option for a huge variety of reasons. I feel VERY strongly that it needs to be protected and I will continue to fight and will help other parents fight for all of our children.

Language concerns:

  • It limits the two-year “automatic” charter renewal provision to schools whose term expires between June 20, 2022 and June 30, 2025 (the prior version governed any school whose charter expired before June 30, 2025).

  • It extends the moratorium on establishing new, non-classroom-based schools. It had been a two-year moratorium that was slated to sunset on January 1, 2022. This trailer bill would extend it by three more years until 2025.

Proposed Changes to Independent Study Law - These changes would impact all IS schools/programs those offered by school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools:

  • Weekly synchronous instruction that requires written agreements to include a plan for both daily live interaction and synchronous instruction for all students at least once per week throughout the school year. (I don't know how something DAILY can be required at least once a week)

  • Requires documentation of daily educational engagement for all students every school day. If a student does not participate on a given school day they will be marked absent for that school day. Participation includes, but is not limited to online activities, completion of regular assignments, completion of assessments, and contact between employees of the Education Agency and th