January 2020 Newsletter – School Districts
Big Changes for Charter Schools
Legal Compliance: Meetings, Records, and Conflicts of Interest
Beginning January 1, 2020, non-profit public benefit corporations managing charter schools are required to comply with Brown Act open meeting requirements, California Public Records Act production requirements, and Government Code conflict of interest prohibitions for all charter school operations.
On March 5, 2019, Governor Newsom signed into law Senate Bill No. 126, enacting Education Code Section 47604.1. Section 47604.1 defines the term “entity managing a charter school” and identifies particular laws made applicable to such entities with respect to all charter school operations. Specifically, charter school operations are required to comply with the following laws:
Ralph M. Brown Act
Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act
California Public Records Act
Political Reform Act of 1974
Government Code Section 1090
In other words, for all charter school operations, the entity managing a charter school is required to make meetings of the charter school’s governing board open to the public, post public notice and an agenda identifying discussion items in advance of board meetings, hold closed sessions only for designated purposes and report out actions taken, and produce all disclosable public records related to charter school operations in response to requests by members of the public. In addition, charter school board members are required to avoid financial interests in contracts entered into by the charter school and avoid influencing charter school decisions in which the board member or administrator has an employment interest.
However, Section 47604.1 provides an exemption to the above new legal requirements for activities of the entity that are unrelated to charter school operations. For example, the governing board of a nonprofit corporation operating a charter school could hold meetings regarding governance or operation of the nonprofit entity unrelated to charter school operations without observing open meeting requirements and a nonprofit operating a charter school would not be required to provide financial or business records of the nonprofit corporation unrelated to charter school operations in response to a public records request from a member of the public. In addition, entities that provide goods or services to charter schools at the direction of the charter school governing board are not considered an “entity managing a charter school” simply because there is a contract with the school to perform functions essential to charter school operations. Accordingly, such entities contracted to provide goods or services to a charter school are not required to comply with the laws identified in Section 47604.1.
Petition Review, Virtual Restrictions, and Teacher Credentialing
In addition to the above, additional requirements took effect on January 1, 2020, regarding the establishment and operation of charter schools. Specifically, on October 3, 2019, Governor Newsom signed into law Assembly Bills No. 1505 and 1507. These bills enacted changes to the charter petition review process and include additional charter school compliance requirements pertaining to teacher credentialing and the number and location of charter school resource centers. Specifically, AB 1505 requires that a school board publish staff recommendations regarding a charter petition at least 15 days before the public hearing regarding charter school approval. This bill also permits a school district to consider the interests of the community in which the school intends to locate based on specific facts indicating that the charter school would substantially undermine existing services and offerings or would duplicate an existing program with sufficient capacity for the proposed charter school students. Under the AB 1505 statutory changes, a school district can also deny a charter school petition based on the charter’s financial impact on the district. Further, AB 1505 places a 2-year ban on the approval of new non-classroom-based or virtual charter schools unless approval would be required for the charter to comply with school location requirements.
Additionally, AB 1505 provides that beginning January 1, 2020, all charter school teachers, including those teaching noncore, noncollege preparatory courses, are required to hold the appropriate teaching certificate or credential for the course assignment taught. (Educ. Code § 47605 (2020).) However, teachers are given until July 1, 2020 to obtain a certificate of clearance and meet professional fitness requirements and teachers employed during the 2019-2020 school year will be provided until July 1, 2025 to obtain the required certificate. (Educ. Code §§ 47605 and 47605.4(a) (2020).) Further, charter schools are now eligible to request emergency permits and waivers from the Commission on Teacher Credentialing in the same manner as local school districts. (Educ. Code § 47605 (2020).)
Finally, AB 1507 adds new restrictions regarding the location of charter school sites. In particular, beginning January 1, 2020, a charter school is no longer permitted to establish a school site outside of the authorizing district due to the unavailability of adequate facilities within the district. Under this bill, a charter school is also limited to operating only one resource center outside the District boundaries but within the county of authorization only if the resource center was established before January 1, 2020 and only for the duration of the existing charter. A charter school is thereafter permitted to continue operating an established resource center outside the district upon renewal of the charter petition only if it receives the approval of the school district in which the site is located prior to seeking renewal of the charter petition.
In light of these extensive changes to charter school legal compliance requirements and the charter petition approval process, charter schools and their authorizing districts will need review their operational procedures for compliance with the modified requirements.
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