Bill Text: CA AJR12 | 2021-2022 | Regular Session | Introduced


Bill Title: Veterans’ educational benefits.

Spectrum: Bipartisan Bill

Status: (Engrossed) 2021-05-19 - Referred to Com. on JUD. [AJR12 Detail]

Download: California-2021-AJR12-Introduced.html


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Joint Resolution
No. 12


Introduced by Assembly Member Stone
(Coauthor: Assembly Member Fong)
(Coauthors: Senators Borgeas and Laird)

April 15, 2021


Relative to veterans’ educational benefits.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AJR 12, as introduced, Stone. Veterans’ educational benefits.
This measure would urge the United States Congress to revise the United States Code to remove the requirement that, to be eligible for GI benefits, a law school be accredited by a specialized accreditor and the overly broad restriction that graduates must be eligible to sit for a bar examination in any state.
Fiscal Committee: NO  

WHEREAS, In response to the need to address the employment and retraining of veterans and the administration of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs, the United States Congress enacted H.R. 7105, which, among other things, amended Section 3676(c)(14)(B) and (c)(15)(B) of Title 38 of the United States Code to require that, for a law school to be approved for GI Bill enrollments, it must be accredited by a “specialized accrediting agency for legal programs” and recipients of law degrees from those accredited programs “must be eligible to sit for a bar examination in any State”; and
WHEREAS, The American Bar Association (ABA) is the only “specialized accrediting agency for legal programs” in the United States where recipients of law degrees from those accredited programs are “eligible to sit for a bar examination in any State”; and
WHEREAS, The State of California has been accrediting law schools since 1937 under the supervision of the Supreme Court of California, as authorized by the State of California through its Business and Professions Code and administered through the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California; and
WHEREAS, Until the recent amendment to Section 3676 (c)(14)(B) and (c)(15)(B) of Title 38 of the United States Code, veterans and their eligible dependents have been able to use their GI Bill educational benefits to apply to and, if accepted, attend any law school of their choice; and
WHEREAS, Under the recent amendment, veterans and their eligible dependents would be denied the alternative of attending any one of the 23 California accredited law school programs, many of which have successfully served veterans and their eligible dependents for more than 50 years; and
WHEREAS, Law schools accredited by the State of California grant law degrees that qualify the graduates to sit for the California bar exam and if licensed, subject to individual state licensure requirements, sit for the bar exam in at least 30 additional states; and
WHEREAS, Veterans and their eligible dependents who apply to use their GI Bill educational benefits at California accredited law schools are notified, in writing and in advance of enrollment, that graduation from a non-ABA-approved law school may not qualify them to sit for the bar exam in some jurisdictions; and
WHEREAS, Comprehensive rules and guidelines are promulgated and administered by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California and overseen by the California Supreme Court to protect veterans and the public and to ensure quality of legal education at all California accredited law schools. These regulations are equally as proscriptive and detailed as regulations promulgated by the ABA; and
WHEREAS, There are accreditors in addition to the ABA, such as the State Bar of California and accrediting agencies approved by the Department of Education such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), that also provide rigorous and comprehensive accreditation of law schools. With the passage of H.R. 7105, schools accredited by those qualified and authorized accrediting agencies will be disqualified from eligibility to participate in the GI Bill educational program because of the overly restrictive requirement that only accreditors that are a “specialized accrediting agency for legal programs” where recipients of law degrees from those accredited programs are “eligible to sit for a bar examination in any State” will be eligible under the amended statute; and
WHEREAS, California accredited law schools have the specific and unique mission of serving as “opportunity law schools” that create the opportunity for a quality legal education in geographic areas that are not served by traditional ABA-approved law schools, including numerous military communities that serve remote military facilities; and
WHEREAS, California accredited law schools, as “opportunity law schools,” consider a broad range of admission criteria, going beyond undergraduate grade point averages and standardized testing to identify students who have demonstrated characteristics that indicate a potential for successful law studies, including veterans and their eligible dependents who would not qualify for admission to traditional ABA-approved law schools where high grades and top percentile standardized Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores are required in order for a candidate to be competitive; and
WHEREAS, Veterans and their eligible dependents have proven to be successful in the smaller, highly interactive, highly supportive, academic programs provided by California accredited law schools; and
WHEREAS, Some California accredited law schools have significantly higher passage rates on the California Bar Exam than some ABA-approved law schools, but have far lower costs of tuition, providing the option for a better value for the educational dollar for veterans, their eligible dependents, and the federal government; and
WHEREAS, California accredited law schools also include among their part-time evening programs several accredited hybrid online and fully online JD programs that provide flexibility and even greater geographic access for veterans and working adult law students who are financially or otherwise unable to relocate to attend the traditional residential ABA-approved law school programs; and
WHEREAS, Under the review, evaluation, approval, and oversight of the California State Approving Agency for Veterans Education (CSAAVE), California accredited law schools previously have been evaluated and approved as “accredited” institutions under Section 3676(c)(14)(B) and (c)(15)(B) of Title 38 of the United States Code, or as “nonaccredited” institutions that met the waiver requirements of Section 3676 (f) of Title 38 of the United States Code, and that a California accredited law school has not previously been denied eligibility by CSAAVE due to noncompliance under the rigorous standards of Section 3676 of Title 38 of the United States Code; and now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Assembly and the Senate of the State of California, jointly, That the Legislature calls upon the 117th United States Congress to recognize that California accredited law schools have successfully provided a valuable “opportunity law school” option for veterans and their eligible dependents throughout the State of California for decades and that, of the approximately 1.9 million veterans in California, many are working adults who cannot quit their jobs or move their families in order to use their GI Bill educational benefits to attend an ABA-accredited law school. Many nontraditional veteran applicants and their eligible dependents will not qualify for restrictive ABA admission standards that rely almost entirely on high grade point averages and top percentile LSAT scores, but these veterans and their eligible dependents have demonstrated success in the smaller, highly interactive, highly supportive, California accredited law school academic programs that, in many cases, cost one-half to one-third the amount of an ABA-accredited law school, a value that benefits veterans and is cost effective for government funding; and be it further
Resolved, That the United States Congress should revise Section 3676(c)(14)(B) and (c)(15)(B) of Title 38 of the United States Code to remove the requirement that, to be eligible for GI benefits, a law school be accredited by a specialized accreditor and the overly broad restriction that graduates must be eligible to sit for a bar examination in any state; and be it further
Resolved, That Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of this resolution to the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, to the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, to each Senator and Representative from California in the Congress of the United States, and to the author for appropriate distribution.
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