Capitol Alert

California vaccine bill changes seek to protect education, win votes

State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, at right, has revised Senate Bill 277 to allow more home-schooling and independent-study options for the unvaccinated. A hearing last week raised questions on the right to schooling.
State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, at right, has revised Senate Bill 277 to allow more home-schooling and independent-study options for the unvaccinated. A hearing last week raised questions on the right to schooling. The Associated Press

With a crucial committee vote looming, a California bill conditioning school enrollment on vaccination has been amended to allow unvaccinated California children to complete their education in multifamily home-schools or in publicly sanctioned independent courses.

Senate Bill 277 would bar most California children without their shots from private and public schools. The bill stumbled after a Senate Education Committee hearing last week in which opponents assailed the bill for depriving children of an education, with many saying they would pull their kids from school. Skeptical lawmakers urged the bill’s authors to update the bill and try again.

Amendments devised since then, according to the office of Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, allow children without vaccines to enroll in home-based private schools that serve multiple families. Formerly, the bill only exempted kids in home-based schools that serve a single family or household. The bill also clarifies that unvaccinated children can participate in independent study projects that are overseen by school districts but don’t involve classroom time.

“We want to ensure that every child has access to an education and that’s what we’re doing with these amendments,” Pan said at a Tuesday morning news conference. “I believe with those amendments, that will satisfy many of the concerns of my colleagues, and I’m optimistic we’re going to get the bill out (Wednesday).”

The bill’s passage out of committee is not assured. Representatives of committee members contacted by The Sacramento Bee said senators were waiting to review the amendments.

Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, had no comment ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, while Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, said in a statement that he was “leaning towards supporting” the bill but wanted to wait and see how the bill’s authors respond to questions on Wednesday, a position echoed by the committee’s chair, Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada Flintridge.

Liu “supports vaccinations, but because these are amendments the other members are going to be seeing for the first time she wants to give people a chance” to vet the new amendments during Wednesday’s hearing, spokesman Robert Oakes said.

Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.

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