CITYWIDE — As the State Assembly’s legislative session pulled to a close, a flurry of bills bearing Assemblywoman Julia Brownley’s (D-Santa Monica) name flew through the halls of the legislature.
All passed, including a set of bills aimed at reforming education at nearly every level from the basics of implementing a standard core curriculum to a new structure of funding for community college classes and the education system itself.
At least two of the measures, however, might feel like a bit of deja vu to residents of Santa Monica and Malibu, who have seen something a bit like them before.
The first would create a state seal of biliteracy to recognize high school graduates that have excelled in reading, writing and speaking another language.
The second puts out a request to the federal government to use money from the health care reform bill to establish on-site school clinics staffed by physicians to deliver health care to students.
Both evolved out of ideas implemented during Brownley’s time as a Board of Education member in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, and now she’s trying to implement them statewide.
The biliteracy seal bill, or AB 815, would not only create a uniform physical seal, but would create a set of statewide standards for acknowledging a student’s ability to converse in two or more languages.
The concept already exists in 34 school districts, with different seal designs and requirements.
AB 815 would be totally voluntary.
Farther reaching is Brownley’s attempt to make a formal request to the federal government to use funds wrapped up in health care reform to create a system of clinics based in schools to provide health care to needy children.
“There’s great consensus around having schools be a portal for health care, because that’s where children and families congregate every single day,” Brownley said.
In 1998, Brownley fought for and won grant funding for a partnership between Venice Family Clinic, located on Pico Boulevard, and Santa Monica High School to create one such clinic.
It operates on Mondays and Thursdays for approximately three hours in the morning, said Samohi nurse Nora McElvain, and the benefits to the students are immense.
“This is the most convenient,” McElvain said. “They miss the least amount of time from class, they have consistent care and immunizations and they can be treated for whatever.”
Students can use the services confidentially to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and birth control, and uninsured students are able to see a doctor and get prescriptions same-day.
“It’s incredibly valuable,” McElvain said.
According to Tim Smith, communications director for the Venice Family Clinic, the program is not only easy for families, it saves the schools from losing attendance money from the state.
“It’s not just good for the student and the parents, but for the school,” Smith said.
Now the bills move from the Assembly and on to the State Senate, where Brownley hopes they will pass with relative ease.
Other than those covering school financing and charter schools, Brownley has carried most of the bills before, and gotten them all the way to the governor’s desk.
Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed many of the education reforms, but Brownley, a Democrat, has higher hopes for Jerry Brown, also a Democrat.
“Different governor, similar bills,” she said. “I’m more optimistic that these bills will go through the senate and the new governor.”