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California Introduces New Legislation to Support Education and Career Pathways

California State Senate has introduced new legislation that will provide more career-oriented curriculum and training for California students by enhancing the connections between schools and industry. The Dropout Reduction and Workforce Development Bond Act of 2013, SB 594, creates these new business-school partnerships that enable students to have more opportunities for career training leading toward middle class jobs, while business and industry will benefit from growth in California’s skilled workforce. Programs serving economically disadvantaged students in school districts with high dropout rates will be given priority for funding.

In an interview about the legislation, Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg said, “Too many of our students are dropping out because they don’t see any connection with what they’re learning in school and the careers they want to pursue. At the same time, many in our high growth industries complain that there’s a shortage of skilled workers. When we recently visited Long Beach Unified, students told us that with career academies and small learning communities they were more engaged and focused on their studies. We want a pragmatic way to get industry and business involved in education, combining academic rigor and career relevance. Encouraging their investment will pay off with more success for our students and a stronger workforce in our state.”

The three financing tools under SB 594 are:

Workforce Development Bonds – Allow industry and businesses to invest in academic career pathway programs, to earn a rate of return higher than what’s available in traditional investments. State bond repayment would be linked to contracts outlining performance measurements such as increased graduation rates, internships, apprenticeships and jobs for students in high wage industries.

Career Pathways Investment Tax Credits – Authorizes tax credits for businesses which, in partnership with public schools, invest in academic and work-based learning opportunities. Applications would be reviewed and awarded on a competitive basis through a committee chaired by the Chancellor of California Community Colleges and including the California Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Linked Learning Trust Funds – Trusts funds would be established in each community college and public school district to finance career pathways programs. The trusts can accept revenue from any source, including foundation grants, employment training funds, Community Reinvestment Act funds, tax revenues, apportionments and loans.

This legislation is being supported by many organizations in California, including: California Chamber of Commerce, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Sacramento City Unified School District, California Manufacturers and Technology Association, Bay Area Council, California Nurses Association, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, California Community Colleges, and California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs.