April 14, 2021
New Equity Bill to Level the Educational Playing Field Advances with Bipartisan Senate Education Committee Support
SACRAMENTO—New legislation designed to lift up some of the lowest-performing school districts in California—sponsored by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and authored by Senator Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara)—received bipartisan approval from the California State Senate Committee on Education today, providing a pathway to help close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color.
Senate Bill (SB) 540, which heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee to be heard later this month, will establish a grant program to provide additional targeted assistance to 10 low-performing school districts with identified opportunity gaps for students of color.
“While there are hopeful signs as more and more students return to classrooms, it is important to remember that the inequities that existed before this crisis have only been deepened by this incredibly challenging time,” State Superintendent Thurmond said. “SB 540 will allow the California Department of Education to invest in 10 of the highest-need school districts through an aggressive three-year funding package that focuses on equity coaching and intervention, professional development, and family engagement strategies. We cannot to let students already at a disadvantage slip further behind because of our failure to invest in these schools.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the educational disparities that exist among school districts. SB 540 begins to address the equity gaps that exist in our education system and provide the proper resources to make sure that students, especially those in low-income and communities of color, do not fall behind,” said Senator Limón.
The equity gaps that have existed in the educational system are systemic and long-standing. Research shows that on average, Black students attend schools that are 48 percent Black, while white students attend schools that are only 9 percent Black. By the time Black children enter high school, they are often more than four academic years behind their white counterparts. Suspensions for African American children are approximately three to five times higher than for white children. In the United States, by age 24, only 78 percent of Latinos and 87 percent of Blacks have earned a high school diploma compared to 94 percent of whites. The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened these disparities.
SB 540 would allocate grants of $1.25 million to each of the 10 highest-need school districts for the 2021–22 fiscal year and the following two fiscal years. This key investment in underserved California students will urgently and immediately provide assistance to recover and help schools build the structures to accelerate learning for students and to support families hardest hit by a global pandemic.More information on SB 540 can be found on the California Legislative Information bill analysis website .
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Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100