Charter schools approved in committee, moved to Senate floor for vote

SIGNAL FILE PHOTO: Students line up outside their classrooms on the first day of school at Newhall Elementary School in Newhall. Dan Watson/The Signal 081519

Three bills that, if passed, will dramatically alter the relationship between traditional public schools and charter schools passed the state Senate Appropriations Committee Friday, sending them to the floor for a vote.

Both AB 1507 and AB 967 were authored by Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, while she co-authored the third, AB 1505, and each would increase the authority a school district has over charter schools and their petitions.

Part of a series of bills revolving around charter school reform dubbed “Series 1500,” AB 1507 would eliminate a provision in the Charter School Act of 1992 that allows for charter schools to set up operations in another district within the same county and prevent online charter schools from opening a satellite campus in another district.

AB 1505, also a part of “Series 1500,” would eliminate the State Board of Education’s chartering authority, require new charter school teachers to be credentialed (and existing charter school teachers will have a five-year phase-in requirement) and school boards will be given broader authority to deny a charter school’s petition.

AB 967 would require that a charter school must complete a Local Control and Accountability Plan using the same template as public school districts, have them post it on their website and allow it be reviewed and approved by the host district or county office of education.

Of her own bills, Smith said that AB 967 and 1507 were an “update” to the California Charter Schools Act and ensured “transparency, accountability, parity and equity for all public schools.”

The bills are now up for a floor vote in the Senate, then concurrence in the Assembly if there are amendments. The last day of session is Sept. 13.

Following the news that the bills will be moving to the Senate floor for a vote, the likely outcome that the group of bills will pass, local charter school officials voiced their concern Friday.

“These bills are missing the mark on the intent of the charter school law,” said Amber Raskin, founder of SCVi and iLEAD Schools and director of iLEAD Schools Development. “Charter schools are here to be real partners in change with districts, trail-blazing a new way for the future, while providing high-quality options for families in the present.”

Raskin criticized the bills, calling them redundant and detrimental to some students’ growth.

“(Charter schools) already have higher accountability because they can be closed, as we have seen in Santa Clarita in past years,” said Raskin. “The blanket moratorium and additional regulations cast too wide a net and risk holding back students, and our communities from reaching their greatest potential and new educational frontiers.”

Raskin was critical of the provisions that allow for the local chartering district to have expanded authority, but said SCVi is lucky to be chartered with the William S. Hart Union HIgh School District.

“I am grateful the Hart District has remained a partner in providing what is best for the community and is open to partners like SCVi and iLEAD to create innovative options for students for our most vulnerable populations. Yet I worry about other communities that don’t have the vision and understanding that William S. Hart (Union High School District) does,” said Raskin, “which might deny or not renew charters in order to balance their budget instead of making choices for what is best for families, their community and the taxpayers.”

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