Friday, April 27, 2012


By Tom Chorneau, School Innovations & Advocacy/SI&A Cabinet Report |

Wednesday, April 25, 2012  ::  With the governor’s release of his revised May budget just a few weeks away, a key legislative panel on Tuesday rejected a host of ideas the administration had put forward in support of charter schools.

Members of the Assembly’s subcommittee on education finance also seemed hostile to a proposal brought forward again by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst to give charter schools an additional $23 per pupil to compensate them for performing 17 mandated activities.

Meanwhile the Democratically-controlled panel also placed on hold further discussion of a widely-embraced plan the governor has made to enhance the borrowing options for charter schools.

Speaking specifically about the borrowing proposal, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, said too many questions still remain.

“I don’t think there’s any objection to looking at the ability of charters to borrow money – that’s not the issue,” she said. “The issue is doing it in a way that is consistent with how they’ve been established and the current system that is in place without completely abandoning it.”

While perhaps not unexpected, the panel’s action may signal a showdown this summer between the Democratic majority of the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown over a number of education funding issues.

In committee action earlier this spring, Brown’s centerpiece plan for restructuring school financing with a weighted formula favoring disadvantaged students has been set aside awaiting full policy debate outside the budget process. Brown and his aides have responded in recent weeks in private meetings with school groups by saying the weighted formula will come back as part of the May revise.

Now several elements of Brown’s proposal to improve charter schools have been rejected – something the governor likely will push back against, given his strong position as an advocate for the charter movement.

Among the items voted down Tuesday is Brown’s budget proposal to allow charter schools to directly seek a hardship waiver from the June apportionment deferral, rather than seeking the exemption through the charter authorizer as required under existing law.

Currently, a charter authorizer must review and approve the deferral exemption requests. The administration’s plan would give the governing body of a charter school authority to certify to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, in consultation with the county superintendent of schools, that the charter school would be unable to meet its financial obligations as a result of the June deferral. This would streamline the process by reducing the length of time it takes for a deferral exemption to be approved, according to a committee analysis.

Also rejected was Brown’s proposal to require school districts seeking to sell or lease property to first offer that property – at no cost – to any interested charter school in order to maintain eligibility for various education facilities programs.

In a letter to the committee opposing the plan, the California Association of School Business Officials said, “Essentially, this proposal would take away one of the few remaining means by which school districts can mitigate the deep cuts that they have suffered over the past several years. Most district-owned property has considerable value, and any land which could be considered surplus can be an important part of a district’s Asset Management Plan. Some districts have been able to maintain programs (and smaller class sizes) using surplus property proceeds, as authorized by the Governor and the Legislature.”

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