Help Make 3 Pro-Kid Bills Become Law

This campaign is now closed.

We need your help in ensuring that Governor Newsom signs the following key bills that have passed the Legislature and are now on his desk: 

  • Assembly Bill 249 (Holden) – This bill helps fix water faucets at schools to protect kids from toxic lead in drinking water. Lead exposure even at low levels can cause learning, behavioral and attention difficulties, along with nervous system and organ damage in children. 
  • Senate Bill 635 (Menjivar and Portantino) – The Let Kids Hear Act requires health insurance plans to cover hearing aids and services for kids.  Currently only 1 in 10 children with commercial health insurance have coverage for hearing aids, meaning over 20,000 kids in California with hearing difficulties currently don’t have affordable access.  
  • Senate Bill 274 (Skinner) – This bill prohibits student suspensions due to willful defiance or disruption and eliminates student suspensions and expulsions for tardiness, truancy, and absence, which disproportionately impact students of color, students with disabilities and LGBTQ+ students. 

Campaign Letters

Dear Governor Newsom, 

We write to urge you to sign AB 249 (Holden), which would help protect students, educators, and staff in Title I public schools from lead in drinking water. Lead in these schools’ drinking water is an environmental justice issue and imminent public health crisis, and children and their families are counting on the state to keep them safe. AB 249 applies the state’s lead in drinking water standard for licensed childcare centers to public schools serving the most at-risk kids. The childcare standard was developed by the Department of Social Services in collaboration with the State Water Resources Control Board.  

Parents and guardians have a right to know if their child is at risk of lead exposure. AB 249 sets a health-protective goal of zero lead, and a limit of no more than 5 parts per billion lead, in most public school drinking water. The bill also requires water systems to test all potable water outlets in Title I school buildings built before 2010 and requires a local educational agency or school to shut off any fixture’s water that exceeds 5 parts per billion (ppb) lead. Parents and guardians would be notified if high lead levels are found, and test results would be reported to the State Water Resources Control Board. 

There are no effective treatments for the long-lasting developmental effects of lead toxicity, and it is believed that these effects are permanent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that there is no safe level of lead in children; further, the state Department of Public Health reports that lead exposure at even very low levels can cause learning, behavioral, and attention difficulties in children, along with nervous system and organ damage. Exposure to high levels of lead can be fatal. California must do more to protect our children and families from an often-invisible threat. 

Funding is available to test the water and make it safe. AB 249 is accompanied by a state budget allocation of $25 million to pay for the bill’s required, and much needed, drinking water testing and faucet replacements at Title I schools. There are countless other funding sources available (including the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds, School Modernization money, and WIIN Grants). After consultation with Sacramento State University, the Department of Social Services, San Diego Unified School District, and the State Water Board who collectively provided the cost of the child care center water sampling, faucet replacement, filters, and simple data reporting, we believe that the $25 million in funding is sufficient to pay for extensive testing and remediation at Title I schools. 

Available data shows significant cause for concern regarding lead in school drinking water. In 2019, very limited California school drinking water testing found that samples from 18 percent of K-12 school campuses contained lead levels above 5 ppb. At that time, schools were only required to remediate lead levels above 15 ppb, a level that experts say is not protective of children’s health, and most school drinking and cooking faucets were not tested. More recent data from the Department of Social Services indicates that as many as one in four childcare centers in California also have unsafe levels of lead, and some of these levels were more than 1000 times the legal limit. Children should not have to fear for their health or safety when they are at school. AB 249 will build upon the earlier rounds of testing and ensure that no potable faucets go untested at Title I schools, and California’s most at risk children are further protected from lead exposure caused by school drinking water. 

California’s children can’t wait another five years or more to be able to drink safe water at school. Some argue that California should wait for the US EPA to update the federal Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) before reducing lead in school drinking water. California should lead the nation in environmental protection, not follow. Unfortunately, the LCR update, and the state regulations needed to enforce the federal rule, will not be in place for many years. Once the federal rule is updated, the Water Board will have to develop and approve regulations to apply the new rule in California – a process that could take at least four years. Notably, the updated LCR will not require remediation, only limited testing by utilities — the rule doesn’t regulate schools. AB 249 will direct schools to move forward and remediate lead-tainted school drinking water in the near term, a protective action in the best interest of California’s parents, teachers, school employees, and students. The bill will allow the state to apply for an LCR waiver to avoid duplicate testing. 

California continues to chart the path forward for environmental justice, but it lags in lead poisoning prevention. There are 18 states with mandatory lead in water testing requirements for schools and/or childcare centers, and 23 have a statewide voluntary lead testing program. Washington State, for example, passed laws in 2021 that requires lead testing of all drinking water outlets in public schools that were built before 2016. Initial testing is required by June 2026, and retesting is required every five years thereafter. The laws also require remediation plans and communication with students’ families and staff about lead contamination. 

For these reasons, we urge you to sign AB 249 into law, protecting thousands of children, educators, and staff from harmful lead exposure.    

The Undersigned Organizations

Dear Governor Newsom, 

We are writing to ask for your signature of SB 635 (Menjivar & Portantino), the Let California Kids Hear Act, to ensure coverage of hearing aids and services for California’s deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) children and youth. SB 635, the Let California Kids Hear Act, is a policy approach that would allow families to use their commercial plans supporting access to local providers within their medical homes, reducing delays in accessing care and improving outcomes for kids.  

In 1998 California passed a mandate for Newborn Hearing Screening, acknowledging the urgent need to screen, diagnose and provide early intervention for deaf and hard of hearing children. Yet today access to hearing aids for children is not mandated, and the children of our state are experiencing a developmental emergency. California must ensure that deaf and hard of hearing children have timely access to intervention, consistent with the clinical guidelines and national benchmarks. However, because commercial health insurance plans are not required to cover hearing aids for kids, only 1 in 10 families on privately funded health plans in California have some coverage, leaving a huge access and affordability gap for many families.  

Two ago years the state created the Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Program (HACCP), but only 255 of the estimated 7,000 children who need assistance with hearing aids have enrolled. HACCP has been structured in a way that segments care for children, is expensive to administer, and has built-in access barriers that are difficult to overcome. California is not alone in these challenges, as Georgia tried creating a program like HACCP and failed, ultimately passing a mandate similar to SB 635 in 2018.  

In fact, as of January of next year, 32 states will have mandates for hearing aid coverage for children in commercial plans and/or the essential health benefit state exchange. Your signature on SB 635 is the chance for California to join them and benefit over 20,000 children and youth under 21 who use hearing aids and services but do not currently have sufficient coverage. SB 635 will also save the State money and help more kids access hearing aids compared to HACCP. 

Children who need hearing aids are a vulnerable population, and lack of early treatment has negative and permanent consequences. Children who receive hearing aids within 3 to 6 months of age can develop at the same rate as their hearing peers, demonstrating the importance of early intervention. California spends over $400 million per year on education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) students, which could be dramatically reduced if children have timely intervention. 

We appreciate all that the Administration has done for children and families, and it is time to Let California Kids Hear! We urge you to sign SB 635 so that more California children have the supports they need so they to hear and connect with their world to meet their full potential.” 

The Undersigned Organizations

Dear Governor Newsom:

We are writing to ask for your signature on SB 274 (Skinner), which seeks to improve student success rates, create a more supportive academic environment, eliminate suspensions and expulsions for tardiness, truancy, or other absences, and encourage schools to consider alternatives to suspensions and expulsions by eliminating the “willful defiance” sunset for students in grades K-5 and extending the prohibition of those suspensions to students in grades 6-12 through 2029. SB 274 aims to keep California students in schools while protecting the most vulnerable student populations from harmful and discriminatory school climates.

“Willful defiance” is broadly defined as defying the authority of school staff. Some examples of “defiance” include: wearing a hat, not having a belt, or falling asleep in class. Defiance suspensions contribute to racial inequality in schools. Students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students are disproportionately suspended for low-level subjective behavioral disruptions, classified as “willful defiance.” These suspensions cause students to lose significant instruction time. Data made available by the California Department of Education shows Black students are suspended 3 times more often than White students for defiance. Black and Latino boys in special education are 6% of students in California, yet they account for 16% of defiance suspensions across the State.

The simple act of ending willful defiance suspensions for all public school children recognizes the unique developmental vulnerabilities of youth, especially youth of color and youth with disabilities, by creating a school environment where every child has the opportunity to learn, thrive and succeed.

Many California school districts, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Azusa, Oakland, and Pasadena, have proactively eliminated willful defiance as grounds for suspension.

For these reasons, we urge you to sign SB 274.

The Undersigned Organizations