Flurry of online higher ed bills goes before legislature this week

Online Education Bills

This week is the unofficial “online higher ed” week at the state Capitol as several bills related to online education in California’s public colleges and universities will be heard by lawmakers over the coming days. 

On Tuesday the Assembly Higher Education Committee held a hearing at which it examined a handful of bills having to do with online learning, including: Assembly Bill (AB) 386, AB 387, and AB 895.

AB 895 – which was approved by the committee – is sponsored by CFA and would establish the California Postsecondary Online Education Task Force. This task force would be composed of stakeholders from the three public segments of higher education, including faculty, staff, administrators and students.

The task force would evaluate the status of postsecondary online education in California, identify best practices for implementing online education programs, examine the impact of online education on students and faculty, and establish guidelines to ensure quality online education.

Wednesday will be the Senate’s turn as the Senate Education Committee will take up controversial Senate Bill 520.

A strong letter of opposition was sent April 18 to the bill’s author, Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, by a coalition including CTA, the California Faculty Association, the California Federation of Teachers, the California School Employees Association, the Community College Association and the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges.

The coalition points out that this flawed bill creates more problems than it solves as targeting lower-division courses for online delivery puts at-risk students at even greater risk.

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office has found that community college students, for example, have lower course completion rates when they take them online.

SB 520 will lead to the contracting out of instruction to private companies by shifting public dollars needed to support faculty and staff providing instruction and mentoring – face-to-face interaction, hybrid classes, blended learning, computer labs for students without high speed Internet at home, and academic advising – to new administrative costs and private corporations that are seeking a revenue model for their online products.