Bills to help at-risk youth and improve the emergency response system in California are now one step closer to becoming law.
San Bernardino County Democratic state Rep. Norma Torres introduced two bills in the California state assembly that would increase education funding for at-risk youth and strengthen the state’s 9-1-1 system.
On Tuesday, the full assembly approved Torres’ bill to address training and recruitment issues of emergency dispatchers – she is the chairwoman of the Select Committee on 9-1-1 services.
“As a 9-1-1 dispatcher for more than 18 years, I know firsthand the importance of training and ongoing skill development in order for an operator to provide the best response possible,” Torres said. “And we need to address the improvement on their training and recruitment process.”
The job of a dispatcher can be stressful and requires precise performance. Torres said because of the demands of the job, California reports an average reported turnover and vacancy rate of almost 20 percent similar to the national average.
“Every minute counts and there is no room for error,” she said. “AB 770 uses the existing structure of the 9-1-1 Advisory Board to provide focus on training and recruitment issues. This measure is the step in the right direction to address the importance of standardized training for emergency response call takers to ensure high quality response service to the public.”
Because her bill passed the full assembly by a 53-23 vote, it now goes to the Senate to be considered.
Another one of Torres’ bills passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday after passing the Assembly by a 60-0 vote in April. That bill would make education funding more accessible to at-risk youth by making it so County Offices of Education are eligible for state and federal education funding – Torres previously introduced two other bills that were nearly identical to the one the Senate committee approved but then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both because he claimed state law did not prohibit the COE from receiving federal funding.
“We need to make sure federal funds are distributed equally,” she said. “We cannot leave any children behind and we need to invest in our kids. AB 169 will make sure that these funds are distributed to neediest students.”
California can receive federal education funding for at-risk students the COE serves, and the state receives funding several times a year for those students; however, inconsistencies in the law mean the COE are at-risk of losing their money because existing law requires the State Board of Education to direct the allocation and apportionment of federal funds to local education agencies, local schools districts and other education agencies.
“Each County Office of Education plays a vital role in providing educational programs and services for students, parents, school districts and the community,” Torres said. “This measure will ensure that County Offices of Education are specified in the statute to eliminate confusion as to who is eligible for funding.”
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