A bill that would subject California charter schools to the same public records and open meetings laws as school districts is on its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The state Assembly gave the measure, SB 126 by Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), final approval Thursday on a largely party-line vote after the Senate passed it nearly unanimously last week.
It’s unusually early in the first year of a legislative session for a bill to reach the governor’s desk. Newsom had asked lawmakers to fast-track it through the legislative process.
Backers noted that groups on all sides of the charter school debate helped negotiate the legislation.
“This bill seeks to ensure that the use of our precious few public school dollars are subject to transparency, common ethical practices and good government law that is applied to other governmental operations,” Asm. Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), a longtime teacher with deep union ties, said during Assembly floor debate Thursday.
Asm. Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita), who served as a school board member for nearly a decade, said the bill would help charter schools join the public debate over best practices in education by providing them with “opportunities for good governance” and “that we seek to see their work in the public forum and learn from it.”
The California Charter Schools Association took a “neutral” position on the bill, which it calls a “balanced and comprehensive resolution” to a “longstanding debate.”
“Gov. Newsom’s leadership made all the difference here,” CCSA senior vice president Carlos Marquez said in a statement. “His team brought all parties together to hammer out a deal where everyone had to compromise for the greater good.”
During last year’s gubernatorial primary campaign, an independent expenditure group affiliated with the CCSA spent more than $20 million backing one of Newsom’s Democratic rivals, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Even though the bill moved swiftly through the Legislature and the governor is expected to sign it, the law won’t take effect until January 2020, because it does not contain an urgency clause. Charter schools will be able to use the extra time to prepare for the law’s implementation.