Important New Charter School Rules You Might Not Be Prepared to Implement
TELECONFERENCING, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, AND DISCOURAGING STUDENTS FROM ENROLLING: SB 126 AND SB 75 ARE HERE: ARE YOU READY?
Transparency and SB 126
Beginning January 1, 2020, California charter schools and CMOs considered to “manage” * charters must comply with government agency transparency rules and perform new and different teleconferencing procedures for board meetings. The transparency requirements include the Brown Act open meeting rules; Public Records Act; and conflict of interest rules including Gov. Code section 1090, the Political Reform Act and the prohibition against holding “incompatible” offices—an example of which might be a charter board member serving as a city planning commissioner in a location where the charter is seeking a land use permit.
With the New Year quickly approaching, here is a checklist to make sure your school is in compliance with SB 126:
- For governing board meetings, do you have two-way teleconference locations set up at each school site—including resource centers?
- Now is the time to prepare, especially if your governing board meets outside of regular school hours.
- Governing board meetings must be held within your county
- For charter organizations with school in multiple counties, the governing board must meet in the county where the majority of your students reside (note: the qualifying county might change over time.)
- Charter organizations with schools in multiple counties must also record governing board meetings and post the recordings on the school’s website.
- SB 126 teleconferencing, location and recording requirements do not apply to committees—only to the governing board itself.
- Has your organization adopted and processed a Conflict of Interest Code under the Political Reform Act?
- Every charter school operator must adopt a “code” that identifies position titles and disclosure categories (i.e., various personal economic interests) through your local county or the FPPC.
- Even schools that previously filed under their authorizer’s code will now need a code of their own—so you might need to revisit and revise your authorizer MOU.
- There is a multi-step process for adopting a Code, and depending on where you operate, the process can take several months. Get started now.
(Dis)Enrollment, Notices, Complaints and SB 75
SB 75 prohibits charters from discouraging any pupil from seeking to enroll, or encouraging existing pupil to dis-enroll for any reason including academic underperformance, EL status, socioeconomics, disability, foster status, homelessness, race or ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation. This applies even when a parent or student merely seeks information about the school (e.g., attends informational meeting or picks up enrollment materials), applies for enrollment, and when actually enrolled.
Charters must inform parent/student of this requirement and provide access to a “Complaint Notice and Form” as soon as a parent/student expresses interest in the school. The notice must be posted on the charter school’s website, and the school must provide copies of the notice: (1) when a parent, guardian, or pupil asks about enrollment; (2) before conducting an enrollment lottery; and (3) before disenrollment of a pupil. Also, charter schools are prohibited from requiring or even requesting a pupil’s records prior to actual enrollment. The CDE has posted information and a template compliant form on its website.
So with the New Year fast approaching, make sure you’re ready to comply with these immediately applicable laws. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information and assistance.
* SB 126 does not define what “managing” means for nonprofits. It is anticipated that many authorizers will apply the for-profit standard set forth in Education Code section 47604(b)(2).