Governor Signs Leyva Charter School Accountability and Transparency Bill

SB 126 “is a historic win for students, parents, schools and communities”

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

SACRAMENTO – After earning bipartisan support in the Senate and Assembly, Governor Gavin Newsom today signed Senate Bill 126 authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) and Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) that will require charter school governing boards to comply with the same accountability and transparency laws that traditional school district governing boards already follow.

SB 126 will ensure that, as public schools, all charter schools are responsible stewards of the public funds they receive.  The measure specifically ensures that charter school governing boards observe the same open meeting, conflict-of-interest, and disclosure laws as traditional public schools.

“For far too long, charter schools in California have been held to lower accountability and transparency standards than traditional public schools,” Senator Leyva said.  “By codifying the Attorney General’s recent advisory opinion related to charter schools, SB 126 will ensure that all publicly funded schools—including charter schools—guarantee fair and open access to information. This measure also empowers parents to keep school leaders responsive and accountable.  I thank Governor Newsom for his signature of SB 126 today, as well as his continued leadership in supporting public education in California.  SB 126 is a historic win for students, parents, schools and communities.”

Under the Ralph M. Brown Act and the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, all meetings of a state body or a legislative body of a local agency must be open and public, with everyone being allowed to attend. The California Public Records Act requires state and local agencies to make their records publicly available. Government Code Section 1090 prohibits public officials from being financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity, or by any body or board of which they are members.

“The passage of SB 126 is long overdue.  It is a good government bill that will ensure that schools are learning centers, not profit centers.  Transparency requirements and common ethical practices will now apply to all public dollars that go to public schools.  I thank the Governor for taking leadership on this bill and look forward to working with him on additional charter reform leading to student success and taxpayer accountability,” noted Assemblymember O’Donnell.

There has been a longstanding debate over whether charter school board members are subject to the same open meeting, public disclosure, and conflict-of-interest requirements that school district board members already comply with under state law.  The California Office of the Attorney General (AG) recently published an advisory opinion stating that good government laws apply to charter school governing boards.  While the AG’s opinion greatly influences the debate about whether or not these laws apply to charter school governing boards, the opinion is not legally binding on courts, agencies, or individuals. SB 126 will codify the AG’s opinion and settle how these laws apply to charter schools.

Taking effect on January 1, 2020, SB 126 was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of California, American Federation Of State, County And Municipal Employees, Council 57, Association Of California School Administrators, California Association of School Business Officials, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, California Federation of Teachers, California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, California NAACP, California School Boards Association, California State PTA, California Teachers Association, Kern County Superintendent Of Schools, League of Women Voters of California, Public Advocates Inc., Riverside County Office of Education, San Diego Unified School District, San Francisco Unified School District, School Employers Association Of California, Service Employees International Union California and Small School Districts Association.