February 24, 2011
The Honorable Julia Brownley
Chair, Assembly Education Committee
California State Assembly
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: AB 13 (Knight) – Oppose
Dear Chair Brownley:
Public Advocates, East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC), Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Employment Law Project (NELP), and the Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN) all oppose AB 13. We respectfully request a meeting with you to further discuss our concerns.
AB 13 would prohibit parents and other community volunteers from helping out in classrooms and on school field trips if they have certain drug or any “serious and violent felony” convictions. As currently written, regardless of whether the past conviction occurred more than 10, 20, or even 30 years ago, AB 13 will bar parents from meaningful participation in their children’s education.
Excluding people with past drug and other serious convictions from volunteering will disparately impact low-income communities and communities of color because of the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. In fact, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits blanket bans against hiring people with past convictions because of the racially disparate effect of such bans.
EBCLC works on behalf of clients in Alameda County seeking criminal record remedies to access better employment opportunities. From 2008 – 2010, 86% of Clean Slate clients were people of color, and 92% lived at or below the federal poverty level. These numbers are in stark contrast to the general population of Alameda County, of which 64% are people of color and 10% of households are at or below the federal poverty level. Our clients have successfully
demonstrated their rehabilitation and benefit greatly from California’s criminal record remedies. Yet AB 13 would bar people who have demonstrated their rehabilitation from participating in their children’s schools.
California fiscal researchers also note that “simple inequity in resource allocation is further exacerbated by the availability and usage of volunteer time in wealthier districts.” (Getting Down to Facts, School Finance and Governance in California, p. 38). A survey of principals found that 76% of principals in high income communities reported high reliance on volunteers in the classroom, compared with 38% in lower-income schools. These volunteers provide clerical work, adult supervision at morning arrival or playground duty, tutoring, and help running sports activities. AB 13 will result in even greater inequity in the educational resources that poor communities and communities of color are able to provide students.
Students from these communities already struggle to meet state academic standards, and parent and community involvement plays a critical role in school and student improvement. Parent participation improves academic outcomes for individual children as well as improving school safety – a benefit to the community as a whole. In the most recent National Household Education Survey, conducted by the United States Department of Education, almost half of all parents reported volunteering or serving on a committee at their child’s school. (Safe and Participatory Public Schools). For Bay Area PLAN members, this is one of the most important ways they help their children succeed in school.
To increase equity and public safety for children in poor communities and communities of color, policymakers should encourage parents and community members to volunteer in their local public schools. AB 13 conflicts with the policies for community and parental involvement that the Legislature supported that were intended to focus resources on lower achieving schools. The Legislature’s policy correctly recognized that parental and community involvement are essential for sustainable school improvement. Furthermore, in California parents have a legal right to be actively involved in their children’s education, including the right to volunteer at their children’s school. (See Cal. Ed. Code § 51101(a)(3), (b)(3)(F)). The intent and language of AB 13 conflict with this fundamental right.
Parental and community involvement are essential for sustainable school improvement. For the above reasons, we oppose AB 13 and would like to discuss our concerns with you.
Very truly yours,
Liz Guillen Director of Legislative & Community Affairs
Public Advocates Inc.
Policy Director, Clean Slate Practice
East Bay Community Law Center
Director of Policy
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
ACLU California Affiliates
National Employment Law Project
Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network
Cc: Chelsea Kelly, Assembly Education Committee Consultant
The study Getting Down to Facts, School Finance and Governance in California by Susanna Loeb, et al. at Stanford University is available at http://irepp.stanford.edu/documents/GDF/GDF-Overview-Paper.pdf
The report Safe and Participatory Public Schools by John Rogers of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access is available at http://idea.