Nan Austin

On Campus: GOP takes on teacher seniority; Demos tackle breakfast

State legislators have had a busy week, with a new Republican education agenda unveiled by Assembly Republican Leader Kristin Olsen of Riverbank.

“My children are blessed to be able to learn in good schools from great teachers. Every child should have the same opportunity,” she said in unveiling #GreatSchools4CA.

The package includes a bill (AB 1044) that would make seniority only one of several factors deciding layoffs for teachers. State law currently mandates seniority be the first consideration in layoff decisions. The Vergara v California decision last year ruled that law unconstitutional, but appeals have put that decision on hold.

Another bill (AB 889) would let high school students in science, technology, engineering and math classes – called by the acronym STEM – take junior college courses concurrently.

Four bills introduced recently take on the school district reserve cap, notes School Services of California Inc. in a report than says the California School Boards Association is taking a lead role in the effort.

The cap enacted last year would force school districts to spend down reserves to only enough to cover a month or two of payroll. It does not take effect until the state is more flush, but anyone who watched the state delay payment by six months or more during the recession sees the risks.

Worth chewing over is the breakfast bill. Assembly Bill 1240, by Assemblymen Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, would require higher-need schools to offer breakfast during the school day, during an extended passing period or a midmorning break.

Right now, breakfast is usually served before school, which bus riders or those counting on late-running parents can miss. The release notes that 1 in 5 California schools do not offer breakfast at all.

The legislation would require schools where 40 percent to 60 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals to offer breakfast as an option to all of their students.

Schools where 60 percent to 80 percent of students are low-income would have to offer breakfast after the start of the school day. Schools where at least 80 percent of students are in need would be required to offer breakfast after the start of the school day and free of charge to all students, which is covered by federal reimbursements.

The bill’s authors estimate that increasing the number of kids chowing down on breakfast burritos and waffles would bring $344 million in federal funds to the state of California.

“This is a win-win opportunity. Not only does it use existing federal funds to make sure our kids start their day with a nutritious breakfast, but it helps our educators foster a better learning environment in which kids are more focused,” said Thurmond.

Most districts in this area see the value of not having rumbling tummies drowning out the teacher, and breakfast is available at most schools. Making later breakfast a requirement, however, could make this bill harder to swallow.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.