Charter school bill calls for accountability
A coalition of state leaders and community groups in California is pushing Gov. Jerry Brown to sign legislation that would step up charter school accountability and financial transparency.
Assembly Bill 709, sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, would require charter schools to more closely report how they spend taxpayer funds. It also requires that charters comply with California open meetings, open records and conflict of interest laws; and it bans charter board members and their relatives from profiting from their schools.
“I truly believe that when charter schools were approved in California, taxpayers had the mindset that charters would be transparent and accountable,” Gipson said. “Charters should be just as accountable as traditional public schools.”
Brown has until Sept. 30 to act on the legislation. Advocates said the law is needed in the wake of recent reports that found California charters have engaged in fraudulent spending and unfair enrollment practices.
A study released in July by the ACLU found 20 percent of charters have biased admissions policies that allow charters to weed out low-performing students. Last year three education policy groups issued a report showing that charters are subject to lax financial oversight and vulnerable to fraud, mismanagement and abuse.
State Treasurer John Chiang, Los Angeles Unified School District School Board Vice President Dr. George McKenna, and Anaheim Union High School District Superintendent Mike Matsuda are among the legislation’s supporters.
The California Charter Schools Association opposes Gipson’s legislation, saying it goes too far and would restrict financial flexibility. What’s more, the vast majority of charter schools are non-profit corporations that follow the Corporations Code, which lays out procedures and restrictions to address concerns over potential self-dealing on non-profit boards,” said association spokesman Steven Baratte .
“And unlike school districts, during a fiscal crisis, charter schools often are unable to borrow money from banks at a low interest rate,” Baratte said in a statement. “Thus, charter schools often rely on loans or donations from charter school board members to keep their doors open.”
Charter critics argue that the governor has been reluctant to approve significant changes to charter laws, having vetoed legislation in the past. In 2014, Brown vetoed a bill that would have imposed restrictions on charters that operate outside their home districts — instead assigning a team to analyze the matter and report back. A spokesman for the governor said there is no follow-up to report on the issue.
Nearly 25 years old, the California Charter Schools Act gives charters freedom from some Charter school bill calls for accountability - The San Diego Union-Tribune: