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Governor Gavin Newsom acted to tighten enrollment rules for charter schools, which have been credibly accused of excluding or pushing out students with disabilities and students who get low scores.
Three years ago, the ACLU of Southern California and the public interest law firm Public Advocates identified charter schools that advertised their exclusionary policies on their websites, but have since changed their websites. Their report found that more than one in five charters acknowledged keeping out certain classes of students.
These practices, the report alleges, “violate the California Education Code, the California and U.S. Constitution, and state and federal civil rights laws.”
The report, titled, “Unequal Access: How Some California Charter Schools Illegally Restrict Enrollment,” says that according to the California Charter Schools Act of 1992, charter schools are required to “admit all pupils who wish to attend,” except for space limitations.
Newsom proposed a statute to ban such practices:
Newsom’s proposed statute would specify that charter schools cannot request or require parents to submit student records before enrolling. And it would require that charter schools post parental rights on their websites and make parents aware of them during enrollment and when students are expelled or leave during the year….The proposed statute implies there should be no allowances “for any reason” that might discourage any pupil from enrolling in a charter school.
A charter school advocate complained that district magnet schools for the arts or science or other specialties are not required to accept every applicant.
Many of those impose “selective (sometimes elite), complex and burdensome admissions requirements” that charter schools would not be allowed to adopt, said Eric Premack, executive director and founder of the Sacramento-based Charter Schools Development Center, which advises founders of charter schools. “It would be very interesting to see how districts would respond if the governor had proposed to subject districts to the same restrictions.”
The powerhouse California Charter School Association, the lobbying group, was noncommittal, not wanting to alienate the governor:
The California Charter Schools Association, which represents most of the state’s charter schools, has not commented on the specifics of Newsom’s proposal. In a statement last week on his education budget, it said, “We applaud Governor Newsom’s commitment to increasing funding for special education, and we share his vision in ensuring that all of California’s kids – especially our most vulnerable students – have access to public schools that meet their individual needs.”