Now that the state of California’s Advisory Commission on Charter Schools (ACCS) has set their hearing for February 6th it has become apparent that non-classroom based charter schools will have a more difficult time with the SB 740 regulatory process in the future. Schools that were once deemed to be in full compliance with the regulations are now seeing California Department of Education (CDE) staff recommend that their mitigating factors be denied and that their charter school funding be drastically reduced. CDE staff has not announced any changes to the way that they are handling the regulatory process but schools that have always received 100% of their charter school funding are now seeing their funding cut.
On the February 6th ACCS agenda there are 23 non-classroom based charter schools that have requested mitigating circumstances from the SB 740 regulations. All of their documentation was submitted between January and March of last year and all of their hearings and determinations were delayed until next month. CDE staff is recommending that 5 of the schools have their funding completely denied, 4 schools were recommended for 70% funding and 5 schools were recommended for 85% funding. All of these schools had their request for mitigating circumstances denied. Of the remaining schools on the list, 1 school was recommended for 85% funding and had their request for mitigating circumstances (reserves and exclusion of one time funding sources) approved. Another school was recommended for 100% funding but also had its request for mitigating circumstances denied and 7 schools were recommended for 100% funding and their request for mitigating circumstances is recommended for approval.
It remains to be seen if the ACCS will follow the CDE staff recommendations. However, the negative tone from CDE seems to be getting worse when it comes to charter schools. This is undoubtedly why the administration has put forth proposals, in the Governor’s January budget, to move two charter school programs from CDE to the California School Finance Authority (CSFA) in the State Treasurer’s office. The Governor would like to move both the Charter School Facility Grant Program and the Charter School Revolving Loan Program over to the Treasurer’s office. With CDE’s recent actions charter school supporters and advocates should be cheering and calling their legislator to urge that they approve the Governor’s proposal. If the administration’s proposals are approved it would remove many barriers that charters face when they deal with CDE. Currently, the CSFA runs its own charter school program that is funded with federal dollars and assists numerous charter schools with facility issues. Their staff is easier to deal with than the CDE staff and they are actually helpful and willing to work towards the best interest of the charter school. That is something that we have not seen in the CDE staff in years.