New legislation would greatly expand State Board's authority on charter schools
A bill with sweeping governance implications for charter school authorizations and oversight was introduced on Friday. Senate Bill 1434 (Glazer, D-Orinda) would expand the powers of the State Board of Education (SBE) over charter schools issues and create a new state-level grievance process.
The bill raises serious concerns about the potential impact on local governing authority of school boards and county offices of education (COEs).
The bill would create an ambiguous standard to allow the SBE to strip charter authorization and oversight away from one district or COE and assign it what would be known as an “expanded authorizer,” a designation given to another district or COE which would be selected by the SBE. The use of expanded authorizers would essentially take away existing local authority over charter issues at the county and school board level and place decision-making powers in the hands of a remote authorizer. Further, the bill creates what would be a very costly state-level grievance process through which the SBE could suspend or revoke district authority over charter decisions and allow districts and COEs to file complaints against one another.
AB 1434 will likely be assigned for hearing in the Senate Education Committee in March.
Detailed provisions of SB 1434 include:
New State-Level Grievance Process
- Would force school boards to submit to a new state-level grievance process that would second-guess local decisions related to charter authorizing, oversight and operational matters.
- Would divert more resources from students and the classroom for a new process that allows a charter school, COE or school district to file complaints against other school districts, COEs and charter schools; this process will likely pit districts against districts and/or districts against COEs.
- Shifts decision making and governance from the local to the state level by enabling the SBE to suspend or revoke a district’s authority to approve, oversee, renew or revoke a charter school.
- Subject school districts to additional sanctions for the same offense. A grievance would not preclude a claimant from also pursuing a judicial remedy in addition to any remedies available through the grievance process.
Expansion of State Board Powers
- Would give the SBE new quasi-judicial, enforcement and penalty authority over charter school issues at the county and school board level.
- Creates an ambiguous standard to take away the charter school authorizing, supervisorial, and oversight authority from one district and reassigned it to an “expanded authorizer,” a designation given to another district or COE selected by the SBE.
- Allow the SBE to strip away geographic restrictions on new charter schools approved by expanded authorizers.
- Undermines local participation by stripping charter school oversight jurisdiction from one or more authorizers and allowing the consolidation of jurisdiction for all current and future charter schools with a single authorizer for certain corporate operators.
Changes to Current Petition and Renewal Process
- Changes the standard for a school district’s denial of a petition by requiring findings based on substantial evidence, while eliminating the substantial evidence standard for SBE findings on a statewide charter petition.
- Limits community input and accountability by permitting a charter school originally authorized on appeal by the COE or SBE to bypass the district and go directly to the COE or SBE for renewal.
- Authorizes an appeal of a charter petition denial to the county board in instances where the district does not adopt findings to deny a petition or does not act within statutory timelines. These changes would also apply to an appeal from the county board to the SBE.
- Would allow the SBE to designate a COE to assume oversight of a SBE-authorized charter.
Countywide and Statewide Charter Expansion
- Would render moot CSBA's legal challenge of the approval of statewide benefit charter petitions without conducting formal administrative hearings.
- Replaces the requirement for substantial evidence that the state charter school will provide instructional services of statewide benefit, with one that simply requires petitioners to demonstrate the program quality.
- Eliminates the current basis for countywide charters and replaces it with one that simply requires petitioners to demonstrate program quality. The current criteria requires consideration of the following:
- That the pupils who benefit from the services cannot be served well by a charter school that operates in only one district in the county.
- That the board must be satisfied that the school has reasonable justification for why it could not be established through the Sec. 47605 process.
- Would shift more resources away from students for districts impacted by fee-related grievances and new state and county oversight. Expands the investigatory power of the county superintendent over the fees charged by the district.