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 the student or their parents/guardians.

  • Requires independent study board policies to include a plan to transition pupils out of IS if requested.

  • Requires written agreements to contain provisions addressing communicating academic progress with parents/guardians, provision of connectivity/devices adequate to participate in the educational program, and a statement detailing academic and other supports for students not performing at grade-level.

  • Does not allow the State Board of Education to waive IS requirements.

  • Requires the CDE to create a digital form for education agencies to report daily participation and weekly engagement by September 1, 2021.


The Legislature also adopted very scary, undisclosed “placeholder” language that they are not disclosing the specifics of.


On top of all of that it looks like the budget process will not follow the usual Conference Committee and instead proceed with private negotiations between legislative leaders and the governor.


This is a completely inexcusable non-transparent process.


I have already spoken to the superintendents for numerous county offices of education who are aware of these coming changes. One county office of ed superintendent told me "Our districts are preparing to dismantle their Independent Study programs as a result, with only a few starting up new programs with the more stringent format."



WE NEED YOUR HELP


Please do as many of the 4 steps below as you can, even if you spread them out over the week!


Step 1

Contact the Governor’s office (by all 4 methods if possible) to ask that they work through the budget trailer bill language to help protect our state’s long running independent study programs. These programs have served the students in our state who needed them successfully for decades.


  1. Contact the Governor by phone: (916) 445-2841

  2. Contact the Governor by web form: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/ Where the form asks you to “Please choose your subject:” you can select either: - Budget Proposal 2021-22 or - Education Issues/Concerns (we suggest submitting the form twice, once for each option)

  3. Contact the Governor by fax: (916) 558-3160

  4. Contact the Governor by US Post: Governor Gavin Newsom 1303 10th Street, Suite 1173 Sacramento, CA 95814



Step 2

Contact the Senate Budget Committee:

  • Senate Budget Committee: SBUD.Committee@senate.ca.gov (This email address goes to the office staff for the Senate Budget Committee, the actual Senate members may or may not see them, but send them a message please.)

  • Individual Senate Budget Committee Members:

  • Scroll to the bottom of https://sbud.senate.ca.gov to see the links to each member.

  • If you live within the members district, you can contact them using their web form.

  • If you DO NOT live within the members district, you CAN NOT contact them using their web form. If you do not live in their district, Senate Budget Committee members can ONLY be contacted by phone.

  • If you call each Senate Budget Committee Member by phone, you can have a conversation with their staff about the problematic language. You can let them know that you are calling them because they sit on the committee and they are in a position to impact the entire state.

  • If you are not comfortable speaking on the phone to a staff member about the problematic language, you can instead ask them for an email contact for the education staffer in their office and then you can email them.



Step 3

Contact the Assembly Budget Committee:

  • Assembly Budget Committee: AsmBudget@asm.ca.gov (This email address goes to the office staff for the Senate Budget Committee, the actual Senate members may or may not see them, but send them a message please.)

  • Individual Assembly Budget Committee Members:

  • Scroll to the bottom of https://abgt.assembly.ca.gov/membersstaff to see the links to each member.

  • If you live within the members district, you can contact them using their web form.

  • If you DO NOT live within the members district, you CAN NOT contact them using their web form. If you do not live in their district, Assembly Budget Committee members can ONLY be contacted by phone.

  • If you call each Assembly Budget Committee Member by phone, you can have a conversation with their staff about the problematic language. You can let them know that you are calling them because they sit on the committee and they are in a position to impact the entire state.

  • If you are not comfortable speaking on the phone to a staff member about the problematic language, you can instead ask them for an email contact for the education staffer in their office and then you can email them.

Step 4

Contact your own State Assembly and Senate Member to discuss with them:

  • You can find the contact info for your representatives using this form: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov You will see two results, one for your Assembly Member and one for your State Senator, please follow both links to find the contact info for each on their website. I would send a message using their web form and I would call all of their offices and talk to as many staff members as you can get on the phone.

IMPORTANT LEGISLATIVE DATE


June 15 at midnight

is the deadline for the Budget Bill to be passed.

Interestingly that is the same date that Newsom picked for our state to reopen-

With the Capitol closed to the public prior to June 15th, we can’t easily interact with our legislators to oppose pieces of Newsom’s budget.

That means we have very limited time to get our legislators to amend the language in the budget bill to help protect not only our homeschool students but also our state’s most vulnerable students.

Let’s focus on being constituents who are very concerned about all of the students who are going to lose the only school option that works for their unique situation.



You can read the language he wants in the bill here.




Thank you for your continued action in defending choices in education for all of California students.

If you need any help at all, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you,

Windi Eklund

Text or call 714-310-2213




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