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Breaking News: California Strikes a Deal to Reform Charter Law

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After months of debate and disagreements, the charter lobby and its critics have reached an agreement to reform the current charter law, the first time it has been reformed in 25 years. Both Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown protected the charter industry. Gavin Newsom took an active role in bringing the two sides together.

According to the LA Times, both sides gave up ground.

The deal, announced Wednesday, gives public school districts more authority to reject petitions for new charter campuses, phases in stricter credentialing requirements for charter school teachers and places a two-year moratorium on new virtual charter schools…

Charter schools in California are publicly funded and independently operated. Originally authorized in 1992 legislation to promote educational innovation, charter schools have evolved from an experiment to a system that enrolls more than 600,000 students across the state. California ties education funding to enrollment, and charters have often been pitted against traditional neighborhood schools in a competition for students…

Under the bill, local school boards would be allowed to reject new charter petitions based on the school’s potential fiscal effects on the district and whether the charter seeks to offers programs that the district already provides, according to the governor’s office.

The deal would require all new charter school teachers to hold the same credentials as traditional public schools next year and phase in requirements for existing teachers over five years, the governor’s office said.

The proposal would also eliminate the state board’s role as a chartering authority, allowing it only to weigh appeals to determine whether a school district abused its discretion in denying the petition….

In a concession described as a bonus for charters by people involved in the deal, the legislation would allow county boards of education to retain their role in reviewing appeals for denied charter petitions. The two-year moratorium on virtual and other non-classroom-based charter schools also falls short of calls by unions for a statewide freeze on all new charters.

Additional provisions of the agreement would require charter schools to meet the same performance standards as traditional public schools, the governor’s office said. The law would build on legislation passed this year to ensure charters reflect the demographics of special education students, English language learners and other groups in the communities in which they are located, according to the governor’s office.

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