Governor Newsom is about to sign a Senate bill that would require California charter schools boards to be more accountable and transparent. Senate Bill 126 would require charter schools to:
- conduct open meetings and facilitate the participation in school board meetings and decision making. Board meetings must be held in the county where an organization has the most charter schools.
- adopt conflict of interest policy and for board members and key staff to annually fill out a form listing financial and asset data.
- require public agencies to respond to all records request within ten days and make copies upon request.
Many charters already abide by open meeting and public records laws, either voluntarily or because of agreements with the districts and entities that granted their charter.
California has the most charter schools in the country—1,323 schools enrolling 660,000 students. Los Angeles has 227 charter schools with 110,000 students, and Oakland has 50,000 students attending 44 charter schools. Seventy new charters opened in 2018–19, twenty-five in L.A., and seventeen in the Bay Area.
Striking teachers in Los Angeles and Oakland demanded and received promises to limit the growth of charter schools. L.A.’s new contract included an agreement to ask the legislature to impose an 8–10 month moratorium on charter schools in the district while the state studies the financial impact. Oakland has a similar moratorium in their new contract to be ratified soon.
The bill met no opposition from the California State Charter schools Association and passed quickly. It was introduced on Jan. 10, passed on the Senate floor Feb. 21 and the Senate Assembly Feb. 28. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation because he thought the bill went too far. But this bill has Governor Newsom’s full support and he is expected to sign it soon.
Governor Newsom also called for State Superintendent Tony Thurmond to establish a panel to research the impact of charter school growth on district finances. This would be the first time the state would take an in-depth look since the passage of California’s first charter law in 1992. In 2018 Governor Brown signed AB 406, a bill that banned for profit corporations from creating and managing charter schools in California.