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Bill to restrict charter school location passes Assembly

Posted: August 26, 2014 4:43 p.m.
Updated: August 26, 2014 4:43 p.m.

A bill that would impose restrictions on charter schools seeking to locate outside the boundaries of the district that charters them passed the state Assembly Tuesday, according to officials.

Senate Bill 1263, from state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, is now scheduled to go back to the state Senate for a concurrence vote, officials said.

“This bill gives charter school families assurance that their local school districts will provide oversight, accountability and support, just like with all other public schools,” Pavley said Tuesday. “It closes a loophole that has been exploited to the detriment of legitimate charter schools.”

Santa Clarita Valley school officials were among those that had pushed for the bill.

But one Santa Clarita Valley legislator decried the bill as a “full frontal assault” on a local charter school.

Pavley’s bill would authorize a charter school to locate outside its authorizing district on condition the school receives approval from the district it seeks to operate in.

The bill would continue the ability of charter schools to temporarily locate outside their chartering district for 18 months for purposes of construction, and for a longer period of time if the charter receives permission for it.

“School districts in Santa Clarita and across the state, the California State PTA, the California School Boards Association, and both houses of the state Legislature believe that it is a good idea to close a loophole in the charter law which has been abused by some school districts and charter schools acting in bad faith,” said Brian Walters, president of the Newhall School District board, in a statement. “SB 1263 was drafted to address this growing statewide problem.”

One district that has been accused of such misdeeds is the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District.

The Newhall district sued the Acton-Agua Dulce district in June, challenging the actions of the school board. That board has approved numerous charters since 2012. The suit also named the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences, and challenged its actions to locate an elementary school within Newhall School District boundaries. The school is chartered by Acton-Agua Dulce.

Other districts — the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Pasadena Unified School District — have hit Acton-Agua Dulce with similar lawsuits.

The Pasadena district suit, filed earlier this month, alleges the Acton-Agua Dulce board has approved more than 20 charter schools, many of which could operate outside its boundaries.

“The bill serves to legitimize charters and school districts who act lawfully,” Walters said. “The Legislature saw that basic school district governance concepts were being violated and future abuses could be stopped — that’s why SB 1263 moved through the legislative process.”

Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, blasted the bill in a statement, characterizing it as a “full frontal assault on the Albert Einstein Academy.”

“I call on Governor Jerry Brown to veto this measure, and I pledge to work with all parties next legislative session to address the concerns of process on where charter schools are located,” Wilk said.

“But it will be done with the intent to protect the integrity of the charter school process as a whole and to foster, not stifle, parental and student choice.”

Pavley’s bill would grandfather in charter schools that were approved before April 1, 2013.

The Acton-Agua Dulce board approved the Einstein charter in May 2013.

“Albert Einstein Academy opposes Senate Bill 1263 for its strong-armed attempt to change state Ed Code and deny parent choice and student access,” said Mike MeCey, a spokesman for Albert Einstein Academy.

“This is yet another example of school districts limiting charter school expansion in Santa Clarita Valley and dictating what’s best for the student.

“SB 1263 takes away options provided to charter schools and authorizing school districts,” MeCey continued. “The current law offered Albert Einstein Academy the flexibility to open and operate our successful school model. We intend to continue our fight in the state Senate and ensure that students prevail over bad public policy.”
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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