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Two locally sponsored education bills clear committee

Posted: April 23, 2013 5:23 p.m.
Updated: April 23, 2013 5:23 p.m.
 

Members of the Assembly Higher Education Committee have approved a bill by a local legislator that he says would give more flexibility to community colleges to spend money on academic support staff such as counselors and librarians.

Committee members voted Tuesday to approve Assembly Bill 806, which was introduced by Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita.

At Tuesday’s committee hearing, Wilk said he introduced the bill to make sure students have access to the educational resources they need outside of the classroom.

“Students should not be penalized for a lack of counseling,” Wilk said.

Wilk’s bill would make revisions to a decades-old funding formula known as the 50 percent law, which requires 50 percent of all money spent at California’s community colleges, elementary or secondary schools go toward classroom expenses, such as teacher salaries.

If AB 806 were to pass, community colleges would be able to include money spent on academic-support staff members, such as librarians and academic counselors, in the 50 percent law.

This would make it easier for community colleges to hire additional counselors, Wilk said.

Wilk used College of the Canyons as an example of the need for more academic counselors, saying the college has approximately one counselor for every 1,562 students.

The bill is a “much-needed update” to the 50 percent law, said Sharlene Coleal, COC’s assistant superintendent and vice president of business services.

Wilk told The Signal Tuesday that passage of the bill is one of his top priorities for the legislative session.

But some speakers and committee members questioned whether the bill would fulfill its goals. Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, said she was willing to support the bill but was concerned colleges might cut funding to either educational or support services to fund counselors.

“We need to increase both, not take away one at the expense of the other,” she said.

Other committee members said they thought the bill was not a complete solution to the lack of funding for academic counselors, saying it is akin to patching something rather than repairing it.

Others characterized it as a step in the right direction.

“It may just be patching it,” Assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, said of the bill. “But it’s patching it in the right direction.”

The bill now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further review.

Wilk’s bill was not the only one to clear the Higher Education Committee Tuesday. Fox’s Assembly Bill 736 was also approved.

Fox’s bill would commission a study to see whether it is feasible to construct a California State University satellite campus, and eventually a full four-year institution, in the Antelope Valley.

“The way out of poverty is to allow access to higher education,” Fox said.

Fox said the location of the Antelope Valley, combined with population growth in the area, make it an ideal location for a new four-year institution.

Both Fox and Wilk are members of the Higher Education Committee.

Lmoney@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter @LukeMMoney

 

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