There has been some confusion about the meaning of some of the language contained in the budget trailer bill regarding distance learning. After conversations with legislative staff today, we have confirmed that our initial interpretation of the language matches the Legislature’s intent to allow districts to implement hybrid approaches to reopening their schools.

The controversy stems from the budget trailer bill language that aimed to limit the ability of districts continuing to operate in the Fall  exclusively  through distance learning. The Governor and Legislature wanted to strongly encourage in-person instruction and, at the same time, to recognize that the vast majority of districts will be taking a blended learning approach that involves some level of distance learning. The Governor and Legislature just wanted to ensure that instances of a distance learning-only approach on a district-wide or school-wide basis would only occur where there were clear health and safety issues or in consideration of kids who would be more vulnerable to the virus. The language you see below, in Education Code 43503 (a)(2)(A), is being interpreted by some as a requirement that applies to any and all distance learning. That is an incorrect interpretation. 

Again, these provisions were intended to limit the use of distance learning as the only strategy for instruction as opposed to a blended, hybrid approach. The hybrid model is absolutely allowed, as long as the distance learning that is offered meets the requirements in subdivision (b) of that section.

Let me know if you have any questions.


Kevin Gordon, President
Capitol Advisors Group, LLC
California’s Leading Advocates for Education
925 L Street, Suite 1200
Sacramento, California 95814

From AB 77 – Education Budget Trailer Bill

 (a) (1) For the 2020–21 school year, a local educational agency that offers distance learning shall comply with the requirements of subdivision (b).
(2) Distance learning may be offered under either of the following circumstances:
(A) On a local educational agency or schoolwide level as a result of an order or guidance from a state public health officer or a local public health officer.
(B) For pupils who are medically fragile or would be put at risk by in-person instruction, or who are self-quarantining because of exposure to COVID-19.
(b) Distance learning shall include all of the following:
(1) Confirmation or provision of access for all pupils to connectivity and devices adequate to participate in the educational program and complete assigned work.
(2) Content aligned to grade level standards that is provided at a level of quality and intellectual challenge substantially equivalent to in-person instruction.
(3) Academic and other supports designed to address the needs of pupils who are not performing at grade level, or need support in other areas, such as English learners, pupils with exceptional needs, pupils in foster care or experiencing homelessness, and pupils requiring mental health supports.
(4) Special education, related services, and any other services required by a pupil’s individualized education program pursuant to Section 56341, including the requirements of subparagraph (A) of paragraph (9) of subdivision (a) of Section 56345, with accommodations necessary to ensure that individualized education program can be executed in a distance learning environment.
(5) Designated and integrated instruction in English language development pursuant to Section 11300 of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations for English learners, including assessment of English language proficiency, support to access curriculum, the ability to reclassify as fully English proficient, and, as applicable, support for dual language learning.
(6) Daily live interaction with certificated employees and peers for purposes of instruction, progress monitoring, and maintaining school connectedness. This interaction may take the form of internet or telephonic communication, or by other means permissible under public health orders. If daily live interaction is not feasible as part of regular instruction, the governing board or body of the local educational agency shall develop, with parent and stakeholder input, an alternative plan for frequent live interaction that provides a comparable level of service and school connectedness.
(c) Pursuant to Sections 49550 and 47613.5, school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools shall provide nutritionally adequate meals for pupils who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, whether engaged in in-person instruction or distance learning, contingent upon the department receiving an approved waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture, for each day of the scheduled school year.