Starting Jan. 1, a slew of new state laws and regulations concerning California schools went into effect. From rules limiting the use of pesticide near schools to a law banning "lunch shaming," 2018 brings changes to the way schools and teachers provide for their students.

Pesticide use

Growers within a quarter-mile radius of any school site or child care facility will be prohibited from using certain methods of pesticide application during certain hours of the day Monday through Friday. The regulations, which were adopted by the state's Department of Pesticide Regulation in early November, prohibit use of dust and powder pesticides or application via aircraft, air blaster and sprinkler from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

The new regulations require growers to inform districts and county agriculture commissioners of the pesticides they expect to use prior in advance of their application. The Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commission currently requires growers to report their pesticide use within 10 days following the month of use.

Violators will be subject to fines of up to $5,000.

Lunch shaming

Students will no longer be denied a meal due to unpaid breakfast and lunch fees — a practice some parents have called humiliating or degrading. Senate Bill 250, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, will prohibit districts from "lunch shaming" students whose parents have not paid their lunch fees.

Prior to the passage of the bill, students with past-due lunch accounts who tried to take a meal from the cafeteria were given a snack, nothing at all or even had their lunch taken away and thrown in the trash.

Under the new law, students will be given the same lunch as their classmates — regardless of their debts. Parents will now be notified of their past-due status and districts must assist families in applying for the free- or reduced-price lunch program.

Feminine hygiene

Schools with low-income students will now be required to provide tampons and other menstrual products to students at no cost. Assembly Bill 10, adopted unanimously in September, mandates that feminine hygiene products must be available in half of all women's restrooms at low-income schools with students in sixth through 12th grade.

The products must be provided at schools where 40 percent of the student population is identified as low income. More than 80 percent of Santa Maria-Bonita students and 64 percent of students at the high school district are considered low income, according to each district's Local Control Accountability Plans. 

Community college tuition

First-year tuition at more than 100 California community colleges will end this summer, eliminating another financial barrier to higher education. Assembly Bill 19, signed into law in October, establishes the California College Promise, a program that will waive tuition and fees for first-time community college students enrolled in 12 or more units.

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Estimates indicate the California College Promise will cost between $30 million and $50 million, with details regarding the program's funding to be sorted out during the state budget cycle for the next fiscal year.

Although Hancock College has already committed to providing a free first year through its Hancock Promise program, administrators suggest the bill could provide future students with a second year of free college.

"There are still a lot of questions to be answered, but we feel like it will be rolled out in a way that we can give those first-year students the state promise program with the Hancock Promise Program coming in for year two," Kevin Walthers, Hancock College president, said in October. 

Children of deported parents

Students whose parents "departed California against their will" can enroll at and attend school in California beginning this year. Senate Bill 257, signed into law in October, modifies education code to permit students between the ages of 6 and 18 to attend school outside the district where their parents reside.

The bill will allow students to enroll in public school as long as they lived in and attended California schools prior to their parents' mandated departure. Parents who have been deported will be allowed to designate an adult to serve as emergency contact and attend school meetings.

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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