Legislative Alert: Charter School Compromise Reached
Governor Gavin Newsom, Assembly Member Patrick O’Donnell (D – Long Beach), legislative leadership, representatives from teacher and labor organizations, and charter school advocates announced a deal on charter school reform legislation that has been a contentious debate throughout 2019.
Outline of the Deal
The compromise language will go into AB 1505, but it is not yet in print. However, based on conversations with those involved with the negotiations, the deal encompasses at least the following:
Fiscal impact – Similar to language currently in AB 1505, school districts will be given broader authority to consider the fiscal impact of a charter school on the community when considering whether to authorize a new charter school (described as a primary point for O’Donnell and labor). This requirement will not affect existing charter schools seeking renewal (a win for charter school advocates).
- County boards of education retain appellate role – Charter school advocates were adamant about retaining the ability of county boards of education to have broad authority to hear appeals of local school district decisions to deny charter petitions.
- Eliminates State Board of Education (SBE) chartering authority and limits appeal authority – The SBE will no longer be able to authorize a charter school and will only be able to consider appeals to determine whether a county board abused its discretion in denying the petition (which would remand the petition back to the county board).
- Credentialing – Beginning next year, all new charter school teachers will be required to have the same credentials as traditional public school teachers. Existing charter school teachers will have a five-year phase-in of the requirement.
- Background Checks – Beginning next year, all charter school teachers will be required to pass background checks.
- Academic standards for charter renewal – The bill will allow for fast-tracking of renewals for charter schools that have closed achievement gaps and allow high-performing charter schools to receive renewal periods of up to seven years (current law caps at five years). Charter schools will be required to meet the same performance standards as traditional public schools. The deal is said to ensure “charter schools reflect the demographics of special education, English learner, and other groups in the communities in which they are located.”
- Differentiated assistance to charters – County offices of education will be required to provide differentiated assistance to charter schools. While AB 1505 will not contain an appropriation for this increased workload, senior officials within the Newsom Administration have assured county office advocates that the Governor’s January budget will propose funding for this work.
- Virtual school moratorium – While labor sought a full moratorium on new charter schools, the deal implements a two-year moratorium on virtual and non-classroom-based charter schools. We fully expect to see legislation dealing with online charter schools in 2020 or 2021.
Statements on the Agreement
"We are pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached on AB 1505 — legislation that significantly reforms the Charter Schools Act to address longstanding challenges for both school districts and charter schools," the release said. "This agreement focuses on the needs of our students. It increases accountability for all charter schools, allows high-quality charter schools to thrive, and ensures that the fiscal and community impacts of charter schools on school districts are carefully considered. We are grateful that leaders on both sides of this conversation worked hard to reach this agreement, as it is foundational to continuing to work in the interests of all California students."
- Joint Statement from Assembly Member Patrick O’Donnell, Governor Newsom, Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, and Senator Connie Leyva
We will see formal bill language for AB 1505 in the coming days and we will provide an analysis then (the devil is always in the details). Because the bill was negotiated by Governor Newsom and is blessed by both the Senate and Assembly leaders, the bill will be fast-tracked to Governor Newsom’s desk and he will sign it in short order.
The political impact of this deal cannot be overstated. Charter school reform fights fueled more than $60 million of spending in the 2018 election. As we go into 2020, keeping CTA and CCSA from further fighting over reform potentially allows them to team up on crucial school finance issues, like a passing a revenue-raising measure for schools and a state school bond (which includes charter school facilities).
This is a fast-moving issue tonight, so we will provide additional details when they are available. In the meantime, please let us know if we can provide any additional information.
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