Cal Law in the News: Prison Overcrowding and Standardized Tests

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on September 13, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

California is always making headlines, and this week was no different. Once again California prisons are in the news, as well as the new take on standardized tests.

Prison Overcrowding

The issue of California's overcrowded prisons has been litigated since 1990 and is now, hopefully, nearing an end. Earlier this summer the Supreme Court denied Governor Brown's application for stay of a court-ordered deadline to reduce prison overcrowding.

Amid growing concerns over releasing even more prisoners, earlier this week Governor Brown came to an agreement with both Democratic and Republican leaders of the California Assembly and Senate, reports KQED.

Taking the best of each party's proposals, Brown has a two-step approach, and essentially leaves it up to the three-judge panel to decide. First, as Democrats wished, the Governor will seek more time to meet the court order. If the court does not agree, the Governor in agreement with Republicans, is ready to ship off approximately 9,000 prisoners to out-of-state facilities, according to KQED.

California State Senator Darrell Steinberg stated: "There's insurance here against early release" of prisoners, reports the AP.

California Standardized Tests

California, along with 45 other states, has adopted the Common Core curriculum set to take effect in 2015, reports the Los Angeles Times. While most states have sought and retained waivers of meeting proficiency standards developed in No Child Left Behind, according to the San Jose Mercury News, California has not because the strong teachers unions didn't want test scores to determine teacher evaluations.

On Tuesday, the California Senate passed AB-484, which "suspends most standardized tests next spring and swaps the state English language arts and math assessments in grades 3 through 8 and 11 for a non-high-stakes field test for Common Core," according to EdSource. The problem, for U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is that only schools that have computer testing capability will participate in the field tests; districts much choose to do only half the test (math or English) and foot the rest of the bill if they want to offer the full test, and scores can't be used or published to measure students' proficiency.

Duncan stated, "If California moves forward with a plan that fails to assess all its students, as required by federal law, the department will be forced to take action, which could include withholding funds," reports the LA Times. According to EdSource, California received $30.2 million from the Department of Education last year in relation to administering standardized tests.

A spokesman for the Governor stated: "There is no reason to double-test students using outdated, ineffective standards disconnected from what's taught in the classroom," reports Los Angeles' KCAL-TV. He is expected to sign the bill into law if it passes the California Assembly.

Rape Loophole Closed

A loophole in law criminalizing rape dating back to the 1870s has been closed, reports the Associated Press. Under the old law, if an attacker impersonated a woman's husband to gain consent, he could be found guilty of rape.

The loophole was brought to light earlier this year when a California appellate court had to overturn a conviction of a man who impersonated a woman's boyfriend to gain consent, reports the Associated Press. Because she was not married, she was not afforded the protection of the law. This week Governor Brown signed a law designed to protect all women -- married or not.

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