On Wednesday, a bill that would retroactively grant a high school diploma to senior high school students who were in good academic standing but failed to finish high school because of the COVID-19 shutdowns was passed unanimously in the Senate Education Committee 6-0.
Completing graduations for most 2019-2020 high school seniors
Assembly Bill 1350, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), would give permission to a school district or county office of education to award high school diplomas to students who were in good academic standing on March 1st but could not complete the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent state lockdown. AB 1350 would expand on current law that allows high school diplomas to be given to those who were close to graduation but could not graduate due to extraordinary circumstances such a entering the military during wartime or having been interned by the government during WWII.
Assemblywoman Gonzalez wrote AB 1350 in response to the high number of 2019-2020 high school seniors who could not complete their senior year. The students, mostly minority or lower-income, came from families who could not afford internet to continue school through distance learning, had to take care of ill family members, had to enter the workforce to support their family due to the economic downturn, or, in rare cases, contracted COVID-19 themselves.
Gonzalez pointed out that a third of all students in California don’t have reliable internet needed for distance learning, adding to the “distance gap” of learning between black and Hispanic students to white and Asian students.
“A high school diploma represents 13 years of hard work and dedication by a student. This achievement should not be denied to a student because an unprecedented pandemic interrupted the final few months of that student’s journey,” said Assemblywoman Gonzalez.
Today, Senate Ed. Committee passed our #AB1350 to ensure high school seniors can earn their diploma even if #COVID19 interrupted the final few months of their schooling: https://t.co/DTpWP5GD6e… pic.twitter.com/PnqVOxFsVg
— Lorena (@LorenaSGonzalez) July 29, 2020
Virtually no opposition stands in AB 1350’s way
Many school officials and teachers wildly approve of the bill, as do affected students.
Isabella Loaiza, a 2019-2020 senior in Fresno County who did not receive her diploma, told the California Globe of the situation in her high school last year.
“Many of the students in my high school, you know, they work on the farms after school just to keep their family afloat. They can’t afford internet. And a lot of us come from families where family is always number one, so many of us who did have internet had to take care of parents who got coronavirus.
“I couldn’t graduate because I had to not only take care of my mother who had coronavirus for several weeks and who was in the hospital for almost a week, but I had to get my brothers to their virtual school every morning.
“That’s how it was. We could barely afford that, but that’s what we had to do. I couldn’t let my brothers lapse after all. And by the time my mom got better, classes were wrapping up. Besides, I had to take some odd jobs to help out.
“I had a 3.4 GPA going and I had been looking into going to Fresno State.
“If this bill passes I can do that, and so can thousands of others across the state. I knew many others in my school who had to sit around all spring because they had not internet outside of libraries, which also closed down. I may have to wait a semester at this point, but it’s better late than never. The American dream is about doing better than your parents, and this bill they’re trying to pass in Sacramento would almost ensure that.”
No major opposition has come against the bill, with all the Senators on the Senate Education Commission voting yes without so much as an abstention. As the bill also makes note of only allowing those who were on track to graduate to get their diplomas, any lawmakers usually opposed to ‘blanket protections’ had no real argument to make against AB 1350.
AB 1350 is due to be heard and voted on in the next Senate vote.