Much criticism, no consensus on how to fix charter school oversight
There was widespread agreement at a legislative hearing Wednesday on a lack of clarity and consistency in how the state’s charter schools are approved and overseen.
But school and county district officials and charter school leaders characterized the problems very differently and disagreed over how to fix them.
Charter schools, which receive public funding and are managed, with few exceptions, by nonprofit boards of directors, are free from a number of regulations governing the state’s school districts. There are more than 1,200 charters in California – double the number a decade ago – and this fall they will educate an estimated one of 10 public school students.
Testifying before the Senate Education Committee, district leaders argued that the vagueness of the state’s charter school law and regulations fostered inequalities and a lack of accountability. They complained that charter schools aren’t required to publish financial reports and contact information for board members, many of whom live distant from the school they serve. They said that charter schools can suspend and expel students without an appeals process required of district schools, and many enroll fewer proportions of English learners and disabled students, who are more expensive to educate.
While district schools must provide school lunches to students, charters are exempt from the federal government’s school lunch requirement, and 18 percent of the state’s charters don’t offer meals. That’s a disincentive for low-income students to enroll, said Silke Bradford, who directs charter oversight for the 37 charters that operate in the Oakland Unified School District.
And unlike school districts, the state’s charter schools don’t have their annual LCAP, a comprehensive budget and planning Much criticism, no consensus on how to fix charter school oversight | EdSource: