The Equity 8 – California’s Key Legislative Proposals 2021

Every spring, California legislators offer new ideas or proposed changes to programs and policies that touch the lives of California’s roughly 10 million students, from preschool to K-12 to higher education. Many of these ideas stand to improve opportunity and access for students of color, students from lower-income communities, and English learners if decision-makers in Sacramento are encouraged to make them a reality. 

That’s why each year, The Education Trust–West analyzes proposals for the state budget and new legislation and identifies the top eight greatest opportunities to advance educational equity and justice.

Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2021-2022 state budget includes several of these opportunities. Read our response to Newsom’s budget proposal for an analysis of key funding priorities for moving educational justice forward.


The Equity 8 for 2021:

Governor’s Budget Proposal for FAFSA/CADAA Completion and AB 469 (Reyes) – The Governor’s budget proposal and AB 469 mirror each other and would ensure local educational agencies (LEAs) confirm all 12th grade students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) or the California Dream Act Application (CADAA). Applying for financial aid is one of the most important steps to going to college, and these proposals would significantly boost college-going for students of color and students from low-income communities by building a college-going culture. The proposals also accommodate students who would like to opt-out due to other plans, such as military service.  

ETW is sponsoring AB 469.  

Status: The Governor’s Budget Proposal is pending in the Assembly and Senate Budget Subcommittees on Education. AB 469 passed the Assembly Floor and now moves to the Senate, where it will go through policy and fiscal committees.

Governor’s Budget Proposal for Cradle-to-Career Longitudinal Data System – The Governor has proposed $15 million in the 2021-2022 state budget for Phase I of the Cradle-to-Career Longitudinal Data System. Currently, California does not have a connected, comprehensive way to monitor student progress from high school to college, preventing us from seeing how well California schools are preparing students for their postsecondary educational journeys. Importantly, a connected data system will also enable the creation of tools that students and counselors can use to ensure students are on track and complete key milestones toward college eligibility. These benefits will be even more critical as California attempts to recover from the pandemic and prepare for future disruptions.   

Status: The Governor’s Budget Proposal is pending in the Assembly and Senate Budget Subcommittees on Education. 



Governor’s Budget Proposals for Teacher Recruitment and Professional Development – Governor Newsom has proposed a combined $540 million for teacher recruitment and professional development. These funds will support critical investments in programs, such as the Golden State Teacher Grant Program and Teacher Residency programs, that have been successful in increasing the supply of effective teachers and recruiting and retaining educators of color. Most of the funds for professional development will be used for an educator effectiveness block grant to support teachers in reengaging students and addressing learning loss. These investments will be an important part of the state’s educational recovery from the pandemic and key to ensuring that California’s teacher workforce reflects the diversity of the state.  

Status: The Governor’s Budget Proposals are pending in the Assembly and Senate Budget Subcommittees on Education.

SB 737 (Limon) – Updates and Improves Cal-SOAP – This bill would update the California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP) to serve as the state’s primary financial aid outreach and assistance program. Specifically, it would make financial aid application completion a priority for all Cal-SOAP projects during a year when California is exploring major improvements to the financial aid system and the way we support students and parents in completing these financial aid applications.  

ETW is co-sponsoring this bill with the California Student Aid Commission. 

Status: This bill passed the Senate Floor and now moves to the Assembly, where it will go through policy and fiscal committees.

AB 531 (Quirk-Silva) – Requires Unspent LCFF Supplemental and Concentration Funds to Be Used on High-Need Students – This bill is a reintroduction of AB 1835 (Weber) from 2020. AB 1835 would have closed a gap in existing law that allows LEAs to spend supplemental and concentration funds – the money generated by the numbers of English learners, low-income students, and foster youth enrolled in an LEA – for purposes outside of increasing or improving services for these groups (unduplicated students), if those dollars go unspent within the current year. AB 1835 would have required LEAs to use these unspent funds to increase or improve services for unduplicated students in subsequent years. The Governor vetoed AB 1835 because it would have required new LCFF spending regulations. This year, the Department of Finance has proposed an alternative that addresses the concern by defining what portion of supplemental and concentration funds must be used in the following year. However, the Department of Finance’s proposal also permits LEAs to fulfill their obligation to increase or improve services without spending their full allocation of supplemental and concentration funds. ETW and our partners disagree with this approach and are co-sponsoring AB 531.

Status: AB 531 was held at the Assembly Education Committee and is a 2-year bill.


AB 595 (Medina)  Requires Consultation and Independent Analysis Before Changing University Admission Requirements – This bill is a reintroduction of AB 1930 (Medina) from 2020, a bill that was held by the Senate Appropriations Committee. It would require the California State University, and ask the University of California, to consult stakeholders before adopting changes to eligibility requirements. The bill also requires an independent, third-party analysis and implementation committee to oversee the change if it is approved. Assemblymember Medina authored the bill in response to concerns expressed by ETW and many other equity groups about the CSU proposal to increase the number of courses in quantitative reasoning required for admission.  

Status: AB 595 passed the Assembly Higher Education Committee on March 24th and is being held at the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

AB 1456 (Medina) – Cal Grant Reform – This bill would reform the Cal Grant program to eliminate barriers to access, such as age and length of time since high school graduation, and extend the program to reach nearly one hundred thousand new students. Other changes would shift the Cal Grant program to a model based on student need and improve the consideration of costs of attendance in award amounts. ETW will also be seeking amendments to avoid reducing award levels for some current Cal Grant recipients. 

Status: The bill passed the Assembly Floor and now moves to the Senate, where it will go through policy and fiscal committees.


SB 246 (Leyva) – Rate Reform for Early Learning and Care – This bill would require the Department of Social Services to establish a single reimbursement rate for early learning and care programs, including variation for regional costs and quality adjustment factors. The new reimbursement rate structure would increase current rates, improve the state’s ability to maintain access and quality, and also address problems such as inadequate teacher compensation by ensuring that ongoing rates more accurately reflect the true cost of care. A streamlined reimbursement rate system is also a recommendation from the Master Plan for Early Learning and Care (2020), the California Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education Report (2019), and The First 5 California Rate Reform Stakeholder group whitepaper.   

Status: This bill passed the Senate Floor and now moves to the Assembly, where it will go through policy and fiscal committees.


Ed Equity Advocacy Resources: