What is the California Education Code?

Brendan McGuigan

The California Education Code is a large legal body that covers the various laws that regulate the California education system. There are 69 parts to the California Education Code, each with anywhere from one to twelve chapters, with each chapter having a number of subsequent articles. The different sections may be referred to based on where they are within the code, for example as California Education Code Part 51, Chapter 3, Article 6.5. They may also be referred to by their name, such as California Education Code, Employment, Reduction in Services. Most commonly, however, they are referred to by a call number, for example as California Education Code 87743-87746.

The California Education Code covers the various laws that govern the state of California's school system.
The California Education Code covers the various laws that govern the state of California's school system.

The Code itself is quite dense, and generally would not be entirely comprehensible to someone without some basic knowledge of legal language. It is also quite convoluted, referring back to other articles often. For example, the first article of the above referenced section on Employment reads: “No tenured employee shall be deprived of his or her position for causes other than those specified in Sections 87453, 87467, and 87484, and Sections 87732 to 87739, inclusive, and no probationary employee shall be deprived of his or her position for cause other than as specified in Section 87740 except in accordance with the provisions of Section 87463 and Sections 87743 to 87762, inclusive.”

There are a number of very important articles in the California Education Code, which many people may be familiar with, especially those who work in the California school districts. For example, California Education Code 48907 is of particular interest, as it deals with issues of free speech within the schools. As a result, this section of the Code is brought up quite often in school policy discussions.

In 1974, a study was commissioned which found that high school newspapers were subject to a great deal of censorship and limiting of the right to free expression. To counter this, in 1977 the state adopted California Education Code 48907, which held that papers could publish what content they wanted, except in cases where the material was obscene, libelous, slanderous, or would incite students to create a clear and present danger to the school. Although in 1988 the Supreme Court ruled that students did not have the right to unfettered freedom of speech, except where they had been previously established as “forums for student expression,” California’s Code grants a higher level of freedom, making for some of the most protected student newspapers in the country.

Not only the public school system is handled by the California Education Code. A number of the Codes are relevant to the functioning of private schools as well, and a handful of articles are dedicated exclusively to private schools. For example, California Education Code 33190 lays out the instructions for all private instructors to file with the Superintendent of Public Instruction between the 1st and the 15th days of October.

Compulsory enrollment and standards testing is also laid out in the California Education Code, with exemptions given for private schools in California Education Code 48222. These sections, from 48200 to 48341, lay out everything from what testing shall be permissible to determine readiness, to how attendance must be supervised, to how to improve attendance. Every detail is spelled out in the body of the Code, with sections on average daily attendance, readers for the blind, training for teachers of mathematics, supplemental school revenues, transportation provisions, cafeterias, uniform fire signals, and teacher retirement packages, just to name a few of the thousands of chapters within this monumental body of law.

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