Charter accountability comes back before lawmakers
(Calif.) The still-lingering tension between traditional public schools and their counterparts in the charter movement will once again draw the legislative spotlight in a hearing scheduled today to consider charter accountability issues.
The hearing comes just one day after public-interest attorneys released a damaging report that found one in five charter schools statewide have screening policies that violate state laws requiring charters to admit any student as long as there is room.
Although there does not appear to be any coordination between the two events, the fact that one directly follows the other illustrates that there remain concerns over how much freedom and flexibility charters should have—even 24 years after the first one was established in California.
“All the accountability measures that we have for traditional public schools to ensure that they are meeting the needs of our students, particularly our most vulnerable—should apply to all schools that receive public funds,” said Rigel Massaro, staff attorney with Public Advocates, an organization that shared the byline for Monday’s critical charter report with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
This very question is one of several that will be taken up Wednesday in Sacramento by the state Senate’s education committee in an agenda that includes a discussion over how charters are authorized and regulation of online charter schools.
Colin Miller, senior policy advisor at the California Charter Schools Association said his group is not opposed to greater oversight, especially when it comes to the role of authorizing districts.
“I think over the past few years there’s been a lot of questions about authorizing practices that are not always in the best interest of students,” he said. “We’re also concerned about the renewal process, where some charters that are not performing well are reauthorized, and some higher performing charters are not.”
Miller said that earlier this year, the charter school association sponsored legislation that would have revised a number of policies related to charter authorization. The bill failed to advance.
“We’d hoped it would help start this conversation,” Miller said.
California lawmakers were among the first in the nation to approve public funding of charter schools, and the state has since emerged as the national leader in the total number of charters and the number of students they educate. But there has been a significant growth spurt just in the past decade, with the number of charter schools growing from 560 in 2006 to 1,207 this year, and the number of students enrolled 10 years ago going from 200,000 to more than 550,000 today, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Some defenders of traditional schools had hoped that Gov. Jerry Brown would temper the growth of charters, which had enjoyed strong support from Brown’s Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. But Brown, who helped found a pair of charters while mayor of Oakland, has proven to be an even bigger advocate.
Still, a review of bills still pending before the Legislature shows a number that is aimed at putting Charter accountability comes back before lawmakers :: SI&A Cabinet Report :: The Essential Resource for Superintendents and the Cabinet: