The History of the Graduation Requirement Mandate
by Carolyn Holcroft
To truly understand the context behind the current dialog and debate regarding the proposed graduation requirement mandate elimination, we have to go back to 1979. That year California voters passed Proposition 4, thus requiring the State of California to reimburse local governments (including schools) for any increased costs resulting from new programs or higher levels of service required by state law, technically labeled a “mandate.” (This was ultimately codified in Government Code section 17561.) Right now there are 51 mandates on the books for which the state must reimburse schools.
This background helps inform the current situation because a mandate was effectively created when California Education Code section 51225.3 (a)(1)(C) was added by Chapter 498, Statutes of 1983. Prior to 1986, California high school students were required to complete only one high school science course in order to graduate. However, §51225.3 increased the minimum requirement to two science courses – one in physical science and one in biological science. The Commission on State Mandates (CSM) subsequently identified this new requirement as a mandate in November, 1986, and then in March 1988, they adopted the “Parameters and Guidelines,” which formally established the mandate and defined which costs associated with the additional science requirement were eligible for reimbursement.
When the mandate was originally imposed, the costs associated with requiring an additional science course were predicted to be reasonably within the state’s financial resources. This changed, though, when the San Diego Unified School District finally won a law suit against the CSM in 2004. The case was Sacramento County Superior Court Case No. 03CS0140 and had begun years earlier in the 1980s. The SDUSD (and several other schools) had filed reimbursement claims in which they included salary costs incurred from staffing the additional science course. However, the state asserted such expenditures were excluded because the cost of staffing the second science course could be offset by cancelling other “elective” courses – that is, the additional science course could be offered in lieu of, rather than in addition to, other non-core curricular offerings. After years of legal battle the court finally concluded in 2004 that the language in 51225.3 only required a second science course and did not mandate the elimination of any other curriculum in lieu of the second science course requirement.
The second major occurrence leading to the current crisis was a 2008 court decision in the case, “California School Boards Association (CSBA) vs. State of California.” The troubles precipitating this suit began in 2002 when the California Legislature began the practice of appropriating $1,000 for each K-12 mandate and “deferring” payment of the remaining balances, asserting that this met the legal obligation for reimbursement at least temporarily, and that the balances would be paid at some future (unspecified) time. In 2007, CSBA sued the state for the remaining monies and requested the court prohibit the state from continuing their practice of deferral. On December 4, 2008, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled that the practice of deferral is unconstitutional and this decision was subsequently upheld on appeal in a legal opinion dated February 9, 2011. However, the court did not order the state to cough up the rest of the money it owed, estimated at the time to be approximately $900 million for all underfunded mandates, stating that this would be a violation of the separation of powers doctrine.
In light of the 2004 and 2007 court decisions, the CSM was obliged to amend the parameters and guidelines for the additional science class mandate. Amended parameters and guidelines were initially adopted in November 2008, but then “corrected” parameters and guidelines were issued in December 2008, and it is this document that outlines the current rules for mandate-related reimbursement. These amended versions changed and clarified the way that school districts can claim increased costs associated with the additional science class, such as teaching salary costs and acquisition of space, equipment, and supplies. It’s especially important to note that the most recently adopted parameters and guidelines amendment is effective back to January 1, 2005 – that is, school districts can submit adjusted reimbursement claims retroactive all the way back to January 2005. The State Controller’s Office (SCO) just released the “Claiming Instructions” for the amended claims parameters in July 2011 and not surprisingly, school districts are submitting revised claims for additional costs not allowed under the original parameters and guidelines, and these are predicted to lead to a tremendous increase in cost to the state. At this point the mandate requiring a second science class is estimated to be one of the top two most expensive mandates the state must fund, perhaps exceeding $200 million.
Coming back to the present day…it is rumored that Governor Brown’s office is looking to modify that statute, as recommended in the LAO report, to maintain the requirement of two years of science to graduate from high school without it being a reimbursable mandate. Additionally, the Department of Finance still has litigation pending against the Commission on State Mandates (Sacramento Superior Court Case # 34-2010-80000529-CU-WM-GDS, Department 31) regarding the guidelines the CSM adopted in 2008. This case is currently scheduled for hearing on June 1.
CSTA will continue to pursue this issue and keep the membership informed of new developments.
by Jessica Sawko
2014 will be a very busy year for the Next Generation Science Standards in California. On November 6, 2013, the State Board of Education took action on the issue of the middle school learning progression that they had left undecided at their September 2013 meeting. Their decision was to accept the revised recommendation that California adopt the integrated model as developed by the Science Expert Panel (SEP) as the preferred model for California middle grades science instruction, and to reconvene the SEP to develop a discipline specific model based on the domain specific model in Appendix K. The SEP is meeting on December 4 and 5 to begin this task. Once the SEP completes their work (estimated March 2014) school districts will be able to evaluate both – and choose between the integrated and discipline-specific models based on which they think will best serve their students. No further State Board action will be required to adopt the alternative discipline-specific arrangement. I encourage you to read NGSS for Middle Grades: Tips for Implementation – Step 1, Don’t Rush for tips and information.
2014 will bring a number of opportunities for science teachers to become involved in the NGSS implementation process: Learn More…
by Jill Grace and Marian Murphy-Shaw
Since April 2013 when the national version of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) went public, California has been working at a steady pace to move from lead contributing state to active implementation. CSTA members and other readers of California Classroom Science may be the best informed educators in the state on NGSS at this time. This article is intended to aid middle grade teachers in communicating up-to-date information to your colleagues in science education and the educational leaders you work with.
The number one point which science education leaders, the California Department of Education (CDE), professional learning providers, and the NGSS Achieve group are all making is not to rush, there is no hurry, that 2016-17 is the probable target for full implementation. As with Common Core implementation, a sequence of events, resource preparation, policies, and teacher awareness and transition support will all occur over the next few years. Now that you can breathe again, here is a rundown of common questions and next steps to consider as you start the work towards toward NGSS implementation. Learn More…
by Susan Gomez Zwiep and Jody Sherriff
Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are integral to the development of new knowledge in science both by students in the classroom and by scientists in the field. The new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA provide a new opportunity for science teachers to integrate ELA into science instruction in ways that mirror and support scientific thinking.
Consider this scenario: when you start a new unit about density and buoyancy think about what activity or series of observations might engage your students’ curiosity. As you introduce the unit, the goal is not to “teach” but rather, to get students talking so you can assess their prior knowledge. If you are someone who typically begins by reading part of the textbook or reviewing important vocabulary, resist these urges for now and instead start immediately with a hands-on activity. Learn More…
My First Science Conference…How Did I End Up Here? Reflections of a Non-Science Person Teaching Elementary Science
by Cheryl Romig
OK, so here’s my dirty laundry. I actually chose my major in college based on the number of science classes I would have to take. I can vividly remember lying on the dorm floor, college course catalog spread out in front of my freshman year, counting science classes and crossing off potential majors if I had to take more than two. That was my limit… two classes in four years would surely send me over the edge. Learn More…
In this past month the newspapers, magazines and television shows have been commemorating the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Kennedy inspired a generation to volunteer, to do for others and to give back to their nation. He asked Americans to step-up and to do more. As we remember and celebrate that spirit of serving, I ask you to consider what you can do for science education.
Over the past couple of months CSTA has been promoting opportunities for you to become more engaged in California science education. I have talked to people who have applied to serve on the California Department of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission and the Framework Focus Groups. Lots of you have thought about the workshop proposals you will submit for the 2014 NSTA Long Beach Area Conference – in Collaboration with CSTA! (Remember that the deadline for submission is January 15, 2014.) Learn More…