California Assembly members approved SB 1263 Tuesday, a Santa Clarita Valley bill targeting a local school district’s proliferation of charter school approvals.
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The bill was authored by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas, who represents portions of the Santa Clarita Valley, at the behest of local education officials.
The Assembly passed the measure with a 42-23 vote and 14 members who abstained. Two local legislators were opposed to the bill.
The bill, if signed into law, would set strict limitations for where and when a charter school could be located outside of the physical boundaries of the chartering district.
Proponents said the bill addresses a “loophole” in the state’s Education code, pointing to Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District’s ability to charter 21 schools in the last two years — nine of which are located outside of the district’s boundaries, and seven having been put on hold by the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, issued a statement shortly after the vote, calling the bill a “coercive” attempt to punish Albert Einstein Academy, particularly in light of a grandfather clause in the billl that would disallow the school’s recent charter.
“Once again the majority party has used the coercive power of government to punish those they do not like or agree with,” Wilk said. “Recent actions by the Action-Agua Dulce School District regarding certifying new charter schools may or may not have been proper, and that issue is currently being litigated by the courts. What is crystal clear is this bill’s grandfather clause is designed to harm just one school – the Albert Einstein Academy located in Valencia.”
Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this story. However, a charter school advocate released a similar statement critical of the Assembly’s vote.
“Albert Einstein Academy opposes Senate Bill 1263 for its strong-armed attempt to change state Ed Code and deny parent choice and student access,” according to Mike McCey of Magnetic Communications, an advocate for charter schools. “This is yet another example of school districts limiting charter school expansion in Santa Clarita Valley and dictating what’s best for the student.”
The Newhall School District, which has jurisdiction over the area that houses Einstein Academy’s most recent school on Orchard Village Road, praised the bill, and its attempt to solve what board President Brian Walters called a “statewide problem.”
“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, school board president for the Newhall School District. “SB1263 was drafted to address this growing statewide problem.”
The bill is slated to go before the Senate for a concurrence vote in its house of origination before it could be sent to the governor’s office to be signed into law.
There is a question about whether Gov. Jerry Brown will sign the bill because of his support of charter schools and the fact that the bill has been strongly opposed by most charter school advocates.
“This bill closes a loophole that has been used by a school district to authorize numerous charter schools outside its boundaries in contradiction to the intent of the law,” Pavley said. “Abuse of this loophole hurts legitimate charter schools, and it hurts school districts that are trying to authorize charters within their boundaries and obey the law.”
State Sen. Steve Knight also expressed opposition to the bill because, like Wilk, he felt the measure was an overly broad fix to a problem with the state’s Education Code.
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Source: Santa Clarita News