Charter school changes: Newsom signs Smith’s AB 1507

Kids swing on the playground at Albert Einstein STEAM Academy in Valencia on Friday, March 16, 2018. Nikolas Samuels/The Signal
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Changes are on the horizon for California’s charter schools after Assemblywoman Christy Smith’s Assembly Bill 1507 received Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature Thursday.

The bill, once it takes effect on Jan. 1, will close a provision in the Charter School Act of 1992 that allowed a charter school to open and operate its site outside its authorizing district’s boundaries.

Smith, a former board president of the Newhall School District, as well as leaders in local school districts, praised the bill as a remedy for what they saw as an abuse of this specific provision by the Albert Einstein Academy of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Santa Clarita Valley charter school supporters have expressed concerns about the “1500 series” — a package of bills that included AB 1507 and others that added regulations to the Charter School Act. Originally facing more stringent proposals in these bills, which previously included a moratorium on any new charter school, advocates for the alternative school sites ultimately praised the compromise reached with state legislators.

The California Charter Schools Association, a statewide organization that represents charter schools in Sacramento, expressed support in a statement.

“This historic agreement affirms that high-quality charter schools are here to stay and that the charter school model is a critical lever in closing the state’s achievement gap,” said Myrna Castrejón, CCSA’s president and chief executive officer, in regard to the passage of AB 1505, another one of the “1500 series.”

Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, also had his AB 1505 signed into law by Newsom on Thursday, a bill that would increase the power of local boards to reject a charter school based on its fiscal impact.

“AB 1507 is the result of collaboration with charter and traditional stakeholders across the state to ensure greater transparency and accountability in charter authorization and empower local school boards to make jurisdictional decisions that directly impact the community they serve,” Smith said in a statement released on Thursday. “Gov. Newsom’s signature on ABs 1505 and 1507 speak to the very heart of prioritizing students across California, and moving all of us onto the same page in improving learning for all.”

Former Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger, who supported and lobbied for the bill, said the surviving bills of “Series 1500” were in the works for the past five years.

“The laws that the governor signed today close loopholes that were abused by unethical districts and charter operators, and they empower local school boards to make wise decisions for all students in their districts,” said Winger. “I am grateful to Assembly member Smith, based on her experience as a Newhall School District board member, for taking a lead role in drafting, negotiating and ultimately passing these important reforms.”

Local charter school officials were unavailable for comment as of the publication of this article.

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