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 Michelle French
Since the public reviews of the Next Generation Science Standards have come to a close, like many primary teachers, I’ve been wondering what science will look like in kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms. Learn More…
“SOL Grotto, 2012. 1368 glass tubes, paint. Fabrication: Matarozzi Pelsinger, Rael San Fratello Architects. SOL Grotto is a contemporary take on a grotto or Throeau’s cabin – a spartan retreat that is a space of solitude and close to nature – where one is presented with a mediated experience of water, coolness and light. The SOL Grotto also explores Solyndra’s role as a company S#@t Out of Luck. 1,368 of the 24 million high tech glass tubes destined to be destroyed as a casualty of their bankruptcy, are used in the installation. The tube’s original role as a light concentrating element is extended to transmit cool air into the space via the Venturi effect, to amplify sounds from the adjacent waterfall via the vibrations of the tubes cantilevering over the creek, and to create distorted views of the garden. The form of the electric blue array evokes Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where shadows, light and sounds can call reality into question.”
Responses from Readers:
Peter A’Hearn: Rush hour in little blue circle land.
by Valerie Joyner
Congratulations to CSTA member and STEM Educator, Katherine Schenkelberg, of West High School, in Torrance, CA! Katherine was recently awarded one of the 2013 Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards. An appointed panel of experts selected her for her innovative use of data-collection technology. “The use of data-collection technology in the classroom helps foster students’ interest in STEM education and provides them with engaging, hands-on opportunities for scientific investigation,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and a former physics teacher. “For ten years Vernier and NSTA have recognized innovative STEM educators through this award and this year’s winners are no exception – their projects and programs truly utilize the power of data-collection technology as part of the teaching and learning process.” Learn More…
by Tim Williamson
Members of the California Science Teachers Association are now in the process of voting for qualified CSTA members to fill the seven openings on the CSTA Board of Directors for the 2013-2015 term.
The election is being conducted electronically and opened for voting on April 16, 2013. Voting will close on May 16, 2013. All CSTA members were sent links to the online ballot. Members for whom we do not have current email addresses or who request a paper ballot have been mailed a ballot and candidate statements. Learn More…