Charter school transparency bill passes Senate, on fast track to Gov. Newsom’s desk

19 Feb
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UPDATE: Charter school transparency bill SB 126 passes Senate 34-2, sent to Assembly

Senate Bill 126, a charter school transparency measure, passed the Senate Floor today (Thurs., Feb. 21) with a 34-2 vote after passing the Senate Education Committee in a unanimous 7-0 vote on Feb. 19. The bill was immediately sent to the Assembly, where it now awaits hearing.

Senate Bill 126, authored by the two chairs of the Senate and Assembly Education Committees (Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino and Asm. Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach), was introduced in January as a “spot bill,” with the language pertaining to charter schools added to the bill on. Feb. 14.

A newly-introduced bill on charter school transparency received its first policy committee hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 19, where it passed the Senate Education Committee in a unanimous 7-0 vote and was referred to the Senate Floor.

Senate Bill 126, authored by the two chairs of the Senate and Assembly Education Committees (Sen. Connie Leyva and Asm. Patrick O’Donnell), was introduced in January as a “spot bill,” with the language pertaining to charter schools added to the bill on. Feb. 14.

CSBA supports SB 126, and has strongly supported prior measures that would require charter school adherence to the same transparency and accountability laws that apply to traditional public school governing boards.

 SB 126 appears likely to move through the Legislature at breakneck pace and land on the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom, who has indicated publicly his intent to sign legislation regarding charter school transparency and accountability laws.

SB 126 states that charter schools and entities managing charter schools are subject to:

  • The Ralph M. Brown Act (or the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, if the charter school is operated by an entity which is governed by that act)
  • The California Public Records Act
  • The Political Reform Act of 1974
  • Government Code 1090

 

Additionally, SB 126 includes specific meeting locations requirements for charter schools, depending on type (charters with multiple school sites, nonclassroom-based charters, and management organizations with schools in one county and in multiple counties). The California Charter Schools Association has a neutral position on the bill.

CSBA has cosponsored similar bills in prior legislative years, with the most recent being AB 276 (Medina, D-Riverside) from 2018, which was held on the Senate Inactive File at the end of the 2017-18 session and not sent to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Similar legislation has been passed by the Legislature in prior years but vetoed by two governors.

CSBA’s 2018 report “Uncharted Waters: Recommendations for Prioritizing Student Achievement and Effective Governance in California’s Charter Schools” identified governance and transparency as a primary focus area of the association’s Charter Schools Task Force, and such measures have remained a top CSBA legislative priority.

Gov. Newsom indicated in his initial budget proposal a commitment to pursue charter transparency legislation, and further echoed these sentiments in his State of the State address on Feb. 12:

“The Administration intends to implement statewide policies that hold all school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education accountable for operational transparency and community engagement.”Gov. Newsom’s 2019-20 state budget proposal summary.

“We need clear and achievable standards of transparency, more information sharing, and accountability for all public schools … traditional and charter.”2019 State of the State address

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