Capitol Alert

Restructuring Cal Grants + Charter school report + Muslim Day at the Capitol

Why California students need debt-free college

Monique Graham, a fourth-year communication and dance major at Sacramento State, is $40,000 in debt from student loans. She explains how one proposal by Assembly Democrats' would help her.
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Monique Graham, a fourth-year communication and dance major at Sacramento State, is $40,000 in debt from student loans. She explains how one proposal by Assembly Democrats' would help her.

Good Monday morning to you all, and welcome back! A happy belated Easter and joyous Passover to you all.

Lots to catch up on, so let’s dive right in.

The Assembly is in session at 1 p.m., the Senate gavels in at 2 p.m.


The California Budget and Policy Center posted a blog titled “5 Ways California’s Financial Aid Program Can Better Serve Students” on Thursday. It focused on the Cal Grant program and improving “the foundation of California’s financial aid program for low- and middle-income students pursuing higher education in the state.”

What’s in the report — The center suggested raising the maximum Cal Grant B award to $3,000, in addition to consolidating all Cal Grants and the middle-class scholarship into one program. It also urged the Legislature to make the grant an entitlement program for all students, align the state formula with federal programs and expand Cal Grants to better assist students with other major costs like housing, food and transportation.

“Even with state and federal financial aid, California’s low-income students face significant unmet financial need at each of the state’s public higher education sectors,” the center outlined in the blog. “The current Cal Grant structure is confusing and overly-complicated, making it difficult for students to understand what and how much aid for which they are eligible.”

Read the full evaluations here.

In other news:

  • Today is Earth Day! California has a lot at stake when it comes to combating climate change. The Bee documented what the future of wildfires in California could look like in our Destined to Burn series.
  • Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, swapped out some of the more controversial language in her “Teach for America” bill. The new language does not explicitly name Teach for America, the nonprofit organization that recruits college graduates for two-year positions in traditional public and charter schools. Instead, the bill says third-party groups recruiting entry-level teachers for low-income schools must pledge that educators will spend five years at a campus.
  • After a sweeping police use of force bill — which garnered national media attention and a deluge of public support — passed out of the Assembly Committee on Public Safety earlier this month, its counterpart Senate Bill 230 went through a major amendment process. State Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, authored the bill, sponsored by the California Police Chiefs Association. The legislation now requires consistent statewide policies and mandatory training, which helps strengthen what police accountability advocates have called a weak bill. SB 230 is up in committee for its first hearing tomorrow.

“These substantive amendments are a testament to California law enforcement’s commitment to achieving meaningful change through collaboration,” said Ron Lawrence, president of the association. “We surveyed all of the proven best practices from around the country and incorporated them into one piece of legislation that will modernize and update California’s use of force policies.”


Charter schools are a hot topic of legislative interest this session. A package of three Assembly bills — 1505, 1506 and 1507 — received considerable opposition during a hearing earlier this month. The proposals include placing a cap on charter schools in California, equipping school districts with more authority to reject charter applications and eliminating the ability for the publicly funded, privately run schools to operate outside the geographical boundaries of the agency that oversees it.

Gov. Gavin Newsom already signed a charter transparency bill this session, and representatives from the California School Boards Association are holding a press briefing today at 11 a.m. in room 447 to discuss charter authorization and the fiscal impact of the schools.

Its recommendations are outlined in the association’s new report, Uncharted Waters: Recommendations for Prioritizing Student Achievement and Effective Governance in California’s Charter Schools.


The Council on American-Islamic Relations is hosting its eighth annual Muslim Day at the Capitol today to “meet state legislators, discuss issues of concern and help bring about positive social change.”

CAIR identified three priority bills this year:

  1. Assembly Bill 392, which raises the standard for when police officers can employ deadly force
  2. Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6, which would allow parolees to vote
  3. Assembly Bill 331, which mandates that high school students complete a one-semester ethnic studies course before graduation.

Assembly members Jose Medina, Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty are scheduled to convene for a news conference with CAIR mebers at 11:30 a.m. on the West Steps of the Capitol.

For your radar — The California Center for Civic Participation cancelled the 2019 California Roast because it had trouble scheduling a guest of honor.

Each year, the center organizes a “festive annual tradition” in Sacramento that pulls more than 600 legislators and top officials, lobbyists, executive branch officials, political and public affairs consultants and panelists to tease, “pay respect” to the honoree and talk about California politics.

“The annual event has stood the test of time for over 35 years,” the center said in a written statement, though it continued that, “we no longer have enough time or the capacity to plan for the event on May 28, 2019.”

The jokes better be top-notch next year, folks. You’ve got time.

Happening tonight: The Sacramento Press Club is hosting a welcome reception for new members of the Legislature tonight in the Capitol Rotunda. Which means, if you haven’t already, you’ll get to meet me! And other journalists, legislative staff and SPC members. Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon are scheduled to be at the event, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. See you there!


April 18 — Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas

April 18 — Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo

April 22 — Assemblyman Phillip Chen, R-Diamond Bar


Best of The Bee:

Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.