Push for DOC makes progress

Newman’s DOC bill was joined in the Assembly by a similar bill introduced in January.

Angela Yang, Asst. News Editor

With just a few months left under the current law,  the status of a new District of Choice bill continues to be discussed by California legislators.

State Sen. Josh Newman’s pro-DOC bill was introduced in December and another bill, Assembly Bill 185, was introduced just a month later.

Both have reached the appropriations committees in each chamber of the legislature.

If passed, Newman’s Senate Bill 52 would extend the District of Choice program until July 1, 2023, while AB185, the result of merging the two bills created by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell and Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, would build upon Newman’s extension and expand the program, establishing a revised version of District of Choice.

“The AB185 […] is set to go to Appropriations where the previous bill died last year,” DOC activist and parent Teruni Evans said via email. “Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher is again the Chair for Appropriations. We are hoping for a positive outcome and she decides to put it through to be voted on.”

According to Newman’s 29th District office representative Monica Schmalenberger, in cases where two similar bills are passed, the contents of both bills would be joined into one.

While Newman’s bill permits any district to declare themselves a district of choice, AB 185 requires schools to register with the Superintendent of Public Instruction in order to obtain the status.

SB 52 requires a District of Choice school to determine its transfer students through a random and unbiased selection process, while AB185 gives priority to siblings of DOC students already in the program and then to students who are eligible for free or reduced meals.

Newman’s bill also allows a maximum of 10 percent of the district’s student population to consist of interdistrict transfers, but O’Donnell and Irwin’s bill decreases it to a six percent cap.

Currently, Walnut Unified School District has approximately 23 percent of its students enrolled under District of Choice.

SB52 allows districts to limit student transfers if they have a negative fiscal status.

In contrast, AB185 requires districts to accept transfers when students in the program graduate or leave the district unless the cap is met. However, students enrolled in the program before the 2018-19 school year may stay regardless of the six percent cap.

Both bills require districts to keep records of students transferring in as well as out and permit them to limit the number of transfers out under various conditions.