AB 2158 Extends Mandatory Ethics Training to School Officials
On September 13, 2022, Governor Newsom signed AB 2158 which requires officials at school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools to complete ethics training every two years. This is the same requirement that has been in effect since 2006 for officials at cities, counties, and special districts, commonly known as “AB 1234 Training.”
Which officials must complete ethics training under AB 2158?
The following officials at school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools must complete ethics training every two years:
- All members of Brown Act covered bodies if at least one member receives any type of compensation or expense reimbursement for their work, and elected officials who receive any type of compensation or expense reimbursement for their work.
- Employees designated by a local agency governing body to receive ethics training.
- All school district, county board of education, and charter school governing board members, regardless of whether they receive compensation or expense reimbursement for their work.
Which ethics courses satisfy AB 2158’s training requirements?
An ethics course must meet the requirements in Government Code section 53235 to satisfy the ethics training requirement. Those requirements are:
- The course must consist of at least two hours of training on general ethics principles and ethics laws relevant to the official’s public service.
- The course must cover the core content outlined in Government Code section 53234(d) and California Code of Regulations title 2, section 18371.
- The course must be developed in consultation with the Fair Political Practices Commission and the Attorney General.
- The course provider must provide participants with proof of participation.
The Fair Political Practices Commission has published online training for local agency officials that satisfy the ethics training requirements. Local agencies or an association of local agencies may also develop ethics courses and training materials.
Will ethics presentations at conferences satisfy AB 2158’s training requirements?
It depends. To satisfy the biennial training requirement, the ethics training must meet all of the requirements outlined above. Some conference presentations are not two hours, do not cover the required core content, and were not developed in consultation with the Fair Political Practices Commission and the Attorney General.
Are there record keeping requirements for the ethics training?
Yes. Under Government Code section 53235.2, local agencies must maintain training records for five years that show the dates of the training, and the entity that provided the training.
When must officials at school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools complete the initial training?
AB 2158 takes effect January 1, 2023. Local officials who are governing board members of a school district, county board of education, or charter school as of January 1, 2025, must complete the training on or before January 1, 2026. Thereafter, the training must be completed every two years. If a member’s term of office ends before January 1, 2026, they do not need to complete the training.
For everyone other than governing board members, the training should be completed within one year, although the deadline is not clearly specified. New officials must complete the training within one year of the first day of service with their agency. Thereafter, the training must be completed every two years.
What should school districts, county boards of education, and charter schools be doing to prepare for the ethics training requirement?
School districts, county boards of education, and charter schools should identify the positions that require ethics training, notify incumbents of the training requirement and deadlines, and provide information on available ethics training courses.
Some positions that require training are identified by statute (e.g., governing board members, and members of Brown Act covered bodies who receive any type of compensation or expense reimbursement), and others are designated by the agency’s governing board.
At least once a year, agencies must provide information to their local officials on available ethics training programs.
Do AB 2158’s training requirements apply to community college districts?
It is unclear.
The ethics training requirement applies to officials of “local agencies” as defined in Government Code section 53234. The current definition of “local agency” means “a city, county, city and county, charter city, charter county, charter city and county, or special district.”
AB 2158 has amended the definition of “local agency,” effective January 1, 2023, to include “school district, county office of education, and charter school.” It also amended the definition of “local agency official” to include “[a] member of the governing board of a school district, a county board of education, or the governing body of a charter school . . . .”
AB 2158 did not add “community college district” to the definition of “local agency” and “local agency official.” It is unclear whether this omission was intentional, or whether the legislature intended the term “school district” to include “community college district.”
Community college districts with questions regarding the application of AB 2158 should consult with an AALRR attorney for advice and guidance.
AALRR is available to assist school districts, county boards of education, and charter schools with ethics training compliance, including identifying positions that require training, updating policies, and providing in-person or remote customized training programs.