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November 2003


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATIVE UPDATE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT (NCLB) IMPLEMENTATION Overview: The California State Board of Education recently approved emergency criteria that excluded schools and associated school districts with alternative/bilingual classrooms from applying or competing for federal NCLB funds under the Reading First program. This exclusion of bilingual programs runs contrary to the intent of the federal law, which is to reform programs affecting English language learners (ELLs) and Latino students. Assembly Bill 1485 (Firebaugh-D) would prohibit the California Department of Education and the State Board of Education from developing or implementing requirements or criteria preventing schools with alternative/bilingual programs from applying for and participating in the Reading First program and from receiving program funds. Status: AB 1485 was passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor on October 11, 2003. Additionally, the 2003-2004 state budget now sets aside $13 million of the increase in federal Reading First funds to be received by the state for bilingual programs that were ineligible as a result of the emergency regulations. NCLR Position and Involvement: NCLR strongly supports efforts to ensure that federal law is leveraged to increase learning for ELLs, create professional development opportunities for the teachers who work with them, and improve reading instruction assistance for the schools these children attend. In developing federal education reform legislation, Congress and the Bush Administration made perfectly clear that improving academic and English language acquisition outcomes for ELL students is a national priority. Given that the largest proportion of ELLs are attending California’s schools, the academic progress of these students should receive special attention. Moreover, with 83.5% of ELL students in the state’s K-12 system being Spanish-speaking, AB 1485 is a critical step to improve educational opportunities for California’s Latinos. NCLR has worked in collaboration with Californians Together, a statewide coalition, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE), to support this bill with written and oral testimony to the legislature’s policy and budget committees, visits to legislators, meetings with the Governor’s staff, and facilitating a press conference at the State Capitol. NCLR has also submitted written and oral recommendations to the State Board of Education. FINANCIAL AID AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES FOR IMMIGRANT STUDENTS Overview: In 2001, the legislature and Governor determined that the education of immigrant students was important to the State of California as they enacted Assembly Bill 540 (Firebaugh, 2001), enabling immigrant students who have attended high school in California to qualify for in-state tuition. "Kids who grew up and graduated from high school here should not be priced out of a future," said Governor Davis as he signed the bill two years ago.

NCLR SACRAMENTO OFFICE ♦ 926 J STREET, SUITE 701 SACRAMENTO, CA 95814 PHONE (916) 448-9852 ♦ FAX (916) 448-9823

Yet, the high cost of higher education still prevents a significant segment of California high school graduates who have excelled and gained admittance to college from pursuing this path, particularly since these students are not eligible for federal financial aid and most private scholarships. Senate Bill 328 (Escutia-D, Calderon-D, Firebaugh-D) is an important step in lifting this barrier and would allow students who are eligible under Assembly Bill 540 to qualify for student aid programs and services administered by the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges.

Status: SB 328 was passed by the legislature in September, but was vetoed by Governor Davis on October 12, 2003. NCLR Position and Involvement: NCLR believes that a more educated population will help California keep its economic and competitive edge, while strengthening the social fabric of its communities. NCLR submitted written and oral testimony to the legislature in support of SB 328, and worked with the California NCLR Affiliate Network to urge the Governor to sign it. Governor Davis cited cost concerns in his veto message, and recommended that financial aid be provided to deserving immigrant students when the state’s economy has recovered. In the coming year, NCLR will once again work with the legislature and the new governor to see that similar measures are adopted, fostering enrollment in all public higher educational systems in California, including the California Community College, California State University, and the University of California systems. UNIVERSAL PRESCHOOL Overview: Early childhood education and development provide critical preparation for children’s success in school. English language acquisition is also critical at early stages. In California, 48% of children 0-5 years old are Latino. Yet, of children who attend preschool before kindergarten, only 24% are Latino, compared to 57% of White students and over 40% for both Asian and Black students. There is now a “Preschool for All” movement to establish a state program that would provide voluntary access to formal preschool programs for all children from three to four years of age over the next ten years. Status: Given the current fiscal crisis in the State of California, the implementation of a universal preschool program will not take place immediately, but legislative proposals, including Assembly Bill 56 (Steinberg-D, Chan-D, Daucher-R, and Liu -D) are being cautiously developed in anticipation of phased implementation. NCLR Position and Involvement: NCLR strongly supports proposals to expand access to high quality early childhood education programs for Latino and English language learner (ELL) children, including the establishment of a universal preschool program in California. NCLR is working to ensure that any effort to implement universal preschool is truly universal and includes outreach efforts to urge immigrant and ELL parents to enroll their children. Similarly, access will not benefit these children if they do not receive culturally and linguistically appropriate services where needed. Given that Latinos make up a significant proportion of the preschool population, universal preschool legislation should include efforts to recruit early childhood education instructors with language and cultural competence, and provide professional development in these areas for existing personnel. NCLR is working in coalition with partners in the Preschool for All campaign to develop and advance policies that will best serve the needs of the Latino community, and will be convening NCLR Early Childhood Education affiliates to engage them in this discussion. EMPLOYER-SPONSORED HEALTH COVERAGE Overview: Latinos carry the brunt of California’s “uninsured epidemic,” despite having the highest work participation rates in the state. In California, nearly one-third of Latino children and 41% of Latino adults NCLR SACRAMENTO OFFICE ♦ 926 J STREET, SUITE 701 SACRAMENTO, CA 95814 PHONE (916) 448-9852 ♦ FAX (916) 448-9823

are uninsured and hence without regular health care, even though most of them are employed or live in households headed by someone who is employed. Given that a high proportion of the low-wage labor market is Hispanic, Latinos are less likely to be employed at jobs that provide health insurance. Of the nonelderly Latinos who are uninsured, over half (55%) are working at full-time jobs and approximately one-quarter work part-time or seasonally. The source of primary care for many has become the emergency medical system. SB 2 (Burton-D, Speier-D) creates the State Health Purchasing Program. It would require certain employers to pay a fee for employee health coverage. Employers who provide health care coverage directly would receive a credit against the fee. Small employers would be exempt from the requirement to provide coverage and from the fee. Employees would need to work 100 hours per month for three months to qualify. Status: The Governor signed SB 2 on October 5, 2003. The law will take effect on January 1, 2006 for large employers and on January 1, 2007 for medium-size employers. NCLR Position and Involvement: NCLR strongly believes that working families should have reliable access to health care and support measures to encourage and assist employers in providing health coverage for their employees and dependents. NCLR provided recommendations to the sponsors of this bill, particularly on two items: (1) financial assistance and/or incentives for small businesses to help them provide health coverage, and (2) reducing barriers for seasonal workers by providing automatic qualification for health coverage, rather than waiting for three months of employment. While these recommendations were not taken, NCLR will continue to work with the legislature and health organizations to maximize state options to reduce barriers and make health care more accessible. SB 2 will help increase job-based health coverage for Latino families. It initiates a framework to improve and expand affordable health care for California workers and takes a crucial step in addressing the disproportionately high number of uninsured Latinos in California. DRIVER’S LICENSE Overview: Policies on issuance of driver’s licenses, long centered on public safety concerns, have increasingly taken national security and immigration policy undertones, both at the state and federal levels. Until recently, requirements for obtaining a driver’s license were based on an individual’s ability to prove identity, driving skills, and knowledge of traffic and safety regulations – factors that gave state Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) the ability to fulfill their public safety missions. Since September 11, 2001, many states have begun to impose restrictions on immigrants’ ability to obtain licenses in ways that, at best, disregard the complicated nature of our immigration laws and, at worst, result in increased discrimination and harassment against this population and others who are perceived to be immigrants. Requiring an SSN and/or proof of legal immigration status has resulted in denying access to driver’s licenses and identification cards to immigrants – undocumented as well as legally present and in the process of adjusting to legal status – who can legitimately prove their identity and their ability to drive. These measures force vulnerable immigrant populations further underground, undermining public safety by increasing the number of unlicensed and uninsured drivers on the road and weakening relations with law enforcement which are necessary to improve national security. Senate Bill 60 (Cedillo-D) would ensure the safety of all Californians on California roads. It would modify the Social Security requirement and lawful status requirement to ensure that virtually all drivers on California highways are properly trained, licensed, and insured. Applicants who do not have a Social Security Number would be able to apply with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and provide two additional forms of identification. All applicants would need to provide proof of state NCLR SACRAMENTO OFFICE ♦ 926 J STREET, SUITE 701 SACRAMENTO, CA 95814 PHONE (916) 448-9852 ♦ FAX (916) 448-9823

residency, giving discretion to the Department of Motor Vehicles as to what type of documents applicants would need to provide. All California residents would be eligible to obtain a driver’s license only if they pass the driving and written tests, submit proof of identity, and comply with all other licensing requirements. Status: The Governor signed SB 60 on September 5, 2003 and it should take effect January 1, 2004. However, opponents of SB 60 are pursuing a referendum to repeal it on the March 2004 ballot. Opponents of the referendum have until December 7, 2003 to submit signatures of 373,816 registered voters to county election officials. If the referendum qualifies for the March 2004 ballot, SB 60 will not take effect until the results of the March 2004 ballot determine its fate. NCLR Position and Involvement: NCLR believes a driver’s license should be proof of one’s authorization to operate a motor vehicle and proof of one’s identity. Driver’s licenses should not be tied to immigration status, and State Departments of Motor Vehicles should not be responsible for making immigrant eligibility determinations. Safety and security goals are not mutually exclusive and can be accomplished through initiatives that carefully combine effectiveness, accuracy, explicit civil rights protections, and prevention of discriminatory effects. SB 60 takes steps to ensure the safety of California residents. It will ensure that people driving on California roads are tested and skilled drivers and have the opportunity to purchase auto insurance. It will also facilitate the ability of law enforcement agencies to identify those with whom they come into contact, freeing up much-needed law enforcement resources to focus on other safety and crime-fighting work. By allowing all California residents to apply for a driver’s license and abide by the rules of the road, SB 60 will improve highway safety and protect the lives of all Californians. LANGUAGE ACCESS Overview: Currently, there are no specific standards or requirements for commercial health plans to provide culturally and linguistically competent care. According to Census 2000 data, almost 40% of Californians speak a language other than English at home; of those, three-quarters are Spanish-speaking. Reports have shown that language barriers can impede access to health care services and preventative care. Additionally, these barriers have often resulted in misdiagnosis, lack of understanding of medical consent and other legal issues, and ineffective provider-patient relationships. A recent study cited in the Santa Cruz Sentinel found that the use of family members or untrained bilingual nurses resulted in critical and life-threatening consequences. Senate Bill 853 (Escutia-D) would require the Department of Managed Health Care to develop standards and requirements to provide health care service plan enrollees with access to language assistance when obtaining health care services. The regulations would require health care service plans to implement programs to assess enrollee needs, provide translation and interpretation for medical services and translation of vital documents to enrollees, and report back to the department on internal policies and procedures related to cultural appropriateness. Status: The Governor signed SB 853 on October 9, 2003. The Department of Managed Health Care must establish their standards and requirements no later than January 1, 2006. NCLR Position and Involvement: NCLR strongly supports measures to ensure that people of limited English proficiency receive quality and accessible health care, and that communication and/or language barriers, which compromise health care, are eliminated. With California’s communities becoming increasingly diverse and integrated, SB 853 will help to improve access to needed health care and lead to effective utilization of services. With culture strongly influencing one’s perception of disease, NCLR SACRAMENTO OFFICE ♦ 926 J STREET, SUITE 701 SACRAMENTO, CA 95814 PHONE (916) 448-9852 ♦ FAX (916) 448-9823

prevention, and behavior, culturally and linguistically appropriate health services are an important tool in the fight against disease. In addition to this legislation, NCLR has been working with a large group of advocates to ensure state compliance with the Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act of 1973, which requires state agencies to provide bilingual services when 5% or more of its clients in a given region speak a language other than English. Steps in that direction enhance the accessibility of state government and its agencies for all Californians and improve the quality and effectiveness of available programs. If you would like additional information about California legislation, please contact the NCLR Sacramento Office at (916) 448-9852. You may also contact the California Policy Analysts via email: Cristina Huezo ( or Patricia Diaz (

NCLR SACRAMENTO OFFICE ♌ 926 J STREET, SUITE 701 SACRAMENTO, CA 95814 PHONE (916) 448-9852 ♌ FAX (916) 448-9823

California Capitol Report, November 2003  

California Capitol Report, November 2003