BILL ANALYSIS SENATE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION Gloria Romero, Chair 2009-2010 Regular Session BILL NO: AB 122 AUTHOR: Coto AMENDED: June 1, 2009 FISCAL COMM: No HEARING DATE: July 8, 2009 URGENCY: No CONSULTANT:Kathleen Chavira SUBJECT : Small Schools SUMMARY This bill establishes conditions which must be met for a district to establish a small school and repeals these provisions on January 1, 2017. BACKGROUND AB 1465 (Chan, Statutes of 2004) set aside $20 million in new construction funding and $5 million in modernization funding for a Small High School pilot program allowing school districts to receive an increased amount of funding when constructing or reconfiguring small high schools (defined as high schools having a total enrollment of no more than 500 pupils). The program provided a 20 percent increase to the new construction per-pupil grant and changed the state and local matching share from 50/50 to 60/40, respectively. Funding for a single modernization project was limited to $500,000 and was available to a high school with an enrollment of 1,000 or more pupils seeking to reconfigure into two or more small high schools. Applicant school districts were required to develop an Academic Reform Strategy, to be reviewed by the California Department of Education (CDE). Proposition 1D, authorized by voters in 2006, authorized up to $200 million from new construction and modernization funds to be used for Small High Schools. AB 1465 also required the State Allocation Board (SAB) to evaluate the cost of construction and modernization of small high schools in the pilot program, and required the CDE to evaluate the pupil outcomes at the small high schools, with the intention that these evaluations be used AB 122 Page 2 to inform the direction of future school facilities construction and related bond measures. The SAB adopted regulations for implementation and administration of the pilot program, which was authorized for two years, in July 2005. According to the Office of Public School Construction, only one project by Porterville Unified School District, housing 499 pupils in 19 classrooms, received small high school funding for new construction. No modernization funds were ever apportioned. The Small High School Pilot Program sunset on January 1, 2008. ANALYSIS This bill : 1) Authorizes a school district to establish a small school subject to specified conditions. Specifically, it: a) Establishes enrollment levels for students in specified grade levels. More specifically it requires that a school providing instruction for pupils in: i) Grades K-5 must have at least 80 and no more than 250 students in those grades. ii) Grades K-8 must have at least 80 and no more than 450 students in those grades. iii) Grades 6-12 must have at least 80 and no more than 400 students in those grades. b) Require the school be staffed by school district staff that volunteer for assignment to the school. c) Requires facilities housing pupils to be located in proximity to one another. d) Requires that enrollment be open to all pupils with at least one parent/guardian AB 122 Page 3 who is a resident in the attendance area of the school district. e) Prohibits admission to the school to determined by pupil achievement and requires the school to develop an objective transparent process to ensure a heterogeneous population that reflects the diversity of pupils in that district. f) Requires the school have an advisory body, elected by their peers and comprised of school staff, parents, guardians, and pupils. g) Requires the allocation of funds to the small school such that the amount of funding per student that is received is the same as what the pupil would have generated at the school attended or that would be attended otherwise. h) Requires the advisory body, in consultation with the schoolsite staff to work with the district to determine how funds allocated to the small school are spent. i) Requires the small school to develop, with collaboration from specified groups, a school plan that includes specified components, including an evaluation plan, and requires that the evaluation plan be submitted by the school to the California Department of Education, and the Assembly and Senate Education Committees at the beginning of the second year of the school's operation j) Requires the district to develop a process for the submission of proposals to establish a small school by interested stakeholders. aa) Requires a district that establishes a small school(s) pursuant to the bill's provisions to adopt regulations that include them as part of an academic reform AB 122 Page 4 strategy focused on 20 delineated outcomes. bb) Authorizes a small school to be located within an existing elementary, middle, or high school site and to be newly constructed and located on a single site or with other small schools or learning communities. 2) Repeals the provisions of the bill on January 1, 2017. STAFF COMMENTS 1) Is this bill necessary ? Under current law, districts may already establish small schools if they so choose. The bill itself cites successful efforts in Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose. The challenge in the creation of small schools appears to be around facilities and programs, as evidenced by the lack of participation in the Small High School Program (see background of this analysis). This bill does not address these issues. However, assuming that districts are unaware of the elements necessary for a successful small school or small learning community, rather than statutorily prescribe the conditions for establishing a small school, would it be more appropriate to direct the California Department of Education to provide information and assistance to districts on the establishment of small schools and learning communities? 2) One size fits all ? This bill prescribes one model for establishment of a small school. It is unclear whether this model conflicts with the small school models that have already been established by districts in California. In addition, there are over 1000 school districts in the state. Is it reasonable to assume that this one model can be applied in all districts? Will it serve as a barrier, rather than an incentive to the creation of small schools? If it is the desire of the committee to move this bill, staff recommends the bill be amended to offer guidelines, rather than conditions, for the establishment of a small school and to clarify that the bill offers a model, but not the only model for creation of a small school or small learning community. AB 122 Page 5 3) Fiscal impact . Although legislative counsel has identified this bill as non-fiscal, staff notes that a number of fiscal concerns are raised by the bill's provisions. For example, do the provisions of the bill create a potential for these schools to become eligible for necessary small school funding? Does a school that inadvertently meets some of the conditions become subject to the various duties outlined? Could this be construed as a mandate? If it is the desire to move this bill, staff recommends the motion be "Do pass as amended to Rules for subsequent referral to the Senate Appropriations Committee." SUPPORT None received on this version. OPPOSITION None received.