An assembly bill aimed at requiring Charter School management be subject to the Ralph M. Brown Act open meeting laws has gone down in defeat this week in Sacramento. Assembly Bill 1478 was introduced by outgoing Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer back in 2017 and has struggled through two readings only to take its last breath yesterday.
“AB 1478, as amended, Jones-Sawyer. Charter schools. (1) The Ralph M. Brown Act requires that all meetings of a legislative body, as defined, of a local agency be open and public and all persons be permitted to attend unless a closed session is authorized.”
The bill was heavily lobbied by California Teachers Association (CTA) in an effort to promote transparency in Charter Schools. On the CTA website, there is a summary of the bill, which is posted below:
“This bill requires charter school governing boards to comply with laws promoting transparency and accountability to parents and the public in the operation of public schools and expenditure of public funds; it does not ask more from charter schools than of traditional public schools.
More than $80 million of waste, fraud, and abuse of tax dollars has been documented in California’s charter school environment that has ultimately hurt our students and communities. Having private and secret meetings to discuss how tax dollars will be spent is not acceptable. Too much is at risk when our students are counting on sound financial decisions that will ensure they get the quality public education they need and deserve.
This bill prohibits charter school board members and their immediate families from financially benefiting from their schools. Public schools’ conflict of interest laws and disclosure regulations should apply to charter schools that receive public funds.
It’s never been the intent to yield all control while granting total authority to charter schools to have their way with taxpayer dollars without any accountability. We need to ensure complete transparency in our schools and that means we must require companies and organizations that manage charter schools to release to parents and the public how they spend taxpayer money, including their annual budgets and contracts.
The public’s business should be transacted in public. Public agencies must take their actions openly and their deliberations must be conducted openly. Families deserve to know how their schools are being run, and our state deserves an education system that is free from unfair advantages and double standards. Companies and organizations that manage charter schools must open board meetings to parents and the public, similarly to public school board meetings.”
With the death of this bill though, one has to wonder just how potent the CTA still is in the California State Legislature? Is the overwhelming lobbying power of CTA decreasing? Well, I certainly hope so. It seems pretty telling that the CTA lobbyists couldn’t get the votes to pass a pretty simple transparency bill. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come. CTA has wielded too much power over politicians in the past, and this little slap in the face might be just what is needed to take that power down a peg.
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