Newsletter: PERB and charter legislation

Ongoing and Upcoming Union Work
Site organizers have been working to hold site meetings and office hours in the first few weeks of school in order to answer questions from our new teachers, gather input, and offer updates. We are preparing to launch a survey, so please look out for that soon!
In the meantime, we are organizing elections for the open slots on our Bargaining Team. Congratulations to Amber Steele, who is the newly-elected Bargaining Team member from Denali Middle School! The election for bargaining team representative at Denali High School will be next week (please contact Sarah Rivas if you have questions). Stay tuned for election news from Tahoma, Tam, and Shasta. 
PERB Update
On August 28, Summit submitted a filing with PERB that outlined why it believes its Home Office positions should be included in our bargaining unit. The filing was confusing for a number of reasons including: Summit acknowledged that it laid off 79 home office employees (presumably they work for TLP now) but it appears to argue that those positions must be included in our bargaining unit; Summit is asserting that Deans are not supervisors and should be a part of our bargaining unit; and Summit stated that since some Home Office employees work on curriculum, their work is interdependent with teachers and they would not be able to continue to collaborate with teachers unless they were in our bargaining unit (this is not actually the case).
We do not believe that Summit made a case for why these extra positions should be included in our bargaining unit; their filing was confusing, inconsistent, and seemed to be yet another delay tactic. The PERB attorney has asked Unite Summit to submit a response to Summit’s filing, and then will make a decision about the appropriateness of our bargaining unit. Again, we will be recognized as the union and will begin bargaining a contract that addresses important issues like teacher turnover and student support services; this is not a question of “if” but “when.”
Charter School Legislation Update
There have been some significant updates to AB 1505 since we last wrote about it. As always, we encourage you to read the bill itself and/or reach out if you have any questions or concerns. This week, the legislature passed AB 1505. Governor Newsom is expected to sign it; Charter Schools Association is staying neutral on the bill and there is broad statewide support for reforms to a law that hasn’t been changed significantly in 20 years, The law would go into effect July 1st, 2020, unless otherwise noted.

Changes to charter renewal
AB 1505 updates the academic criteria for charter renewal to reflect California’s current accountability system, separates charters into different categories for renewal, and allows for different time periods for renewal (currently, all charters are renewed for five years).
— If a charter has two years of the highest performance levels outlined in the California School Dashboard, does not have fiscal or governance problems, and serves all pupils, including English Learners and students with disabilities, who want to attend the school, the charter must be renewed. The charter can be renewed for between five and seven years.
— If a charter has two years of the lowest performance levels outlined in the California School Dashboard, the charter cannot be renewed unless the charter has a written plan on how it will better serve students academically and there is data to show the school is making progress. A school in this category can only be renewed for two years.
— If a charter is in neither the highest or lowest performing levels, it can be renewed for five years unless the district finds that the charter is not making sufficient academic progress and closing the school would be in the best interest of students. Most charter schools will likely fall into this category.

Additionally, under AB 1505 a charter school in any of the three categories above can be denied renewal due to substantial fiscal or governance issues or because the authorizer finds that the school is not serving all students who wish to attend.

Additional Reasons for Denial
Current law outlines six reasons that a new charter school can be denied. AB 1505 adds two more reasons for denial of a new charter school:
— The charter would financially impact the community and the neighborhood public schools.  Denial based on this reason must consider the extent to which the proposed charter would undermine existing programs and services (for example, if opening the charter would lead to cuts in support services, such as counselors, at district schools) and whether the new charter would duplicate existing programs.
— The school district is in fiscal distress (for example, if it’s under state receivership).

These reasons for denial CANNOT be used for charter school renewals (in other words, this part of the law doesn’t apply to existing Summit schools). However, these reasons for denial can be used to deny the expansion (adding more grades or additional school sites) of an existing charter. So, for example, if Summit wanted to add grades K-5 to an existing 6th-12th grade school that was up for renewal, a district could deny the additional grades (K-5) based on fiscal impact but could not deny renewing the existing 6th-12th grade school based on fiscal impact.

Changes to Appeal Process
Under current law and in AB 1505, if a school district denies a charter petition, the charter can appeal to the County Board of Education. If both the district and county boards deny a charter petition, the charter can appeal to the State Board of Education. Under current law, when the State Board of Education receives an appeal, it performs its own independent review of the charter petition and make its own evaluation as to whether or not the petition met the criteria of the law.  Under AB 1505, if a charter appeals to the State Board of Education, the charter must delineate how a district or county abused its discretion in denying the petition; the State Board will no longer perform its own independent analysis of the petition. This means the State Board is taking on a role more similar to an appellate court; instead of having a new “trial” and re-examining all the facts, the State Board will review and rule on whether the district and county followed the legal process and provided the charter petition a fair opportunity to be heard. If the State Board of Education rules that the district and county abused their discretion in denying the charter petition, it can reverse the denial and approve the petition. But, the State Board of Education will no longer be a charter authorizer; it will task the local district or county board to be the authorizer and perform oversight of the charter school. This is an important change to the law that moves charter oversight away from Sacramento and back into our communities.  Charter schools currently authorized by the State Board (approximately 29 state-wide; no Summit school is authorized by the State) will transition to oversight by their local school district or county office of education over the next few years.

Teacher Credentialing
Currently, teachers of “noncore, non-college-preparatory classes” at charter schools do not need a teaching credential. However, what constitutes a “noncore, non-college-preparatory classes” varies widely from school to school and there does not seem to be a common definition across the state. AB 1505 would require all new charter school teachers, starting in the 2020-2021 school year, to have the same teaching credential as required of teachers in district schools.  The bill gives current charter school teachers until July 2025 to obtain the appropriate credential. It also gives charters the same ability that districts have to request emergency permits and other waivers. The bill also tasks the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing with evaluating whether existing credentials are adequate and requires the CTC to propose additional credentials and/or changes to the credentialing process by June 2022. While the credentialing requirements will vary between current and future charter teachers, ALL charter school teachers must get a “certificate of clearance” by July 2020. A certificate of clearance consists of a background check, fingerprinting, and a professional fitness questionnaire. If you have a credential, you should already have a certificate of clearance. The certificate of clearance also ensures that all teachers have had a background check (which, incredibly, is a fuzzy area of the law) and are part of the state’s teacher database.

Other additions to the law
The bill allows (and in some cases requires) charters that are struggling to receive the same technical assistance that county offices of education provide to school districts. In light of the recent multi-million-dollar scandals around virtual schools, the bill puts a two-year moratorium on new non-classroom-based charters (this does not apply to Summit) so that lawmakers have an opportunity to determine what new safeguards are necessary to prevent fraud and waste in virtual schools. Finally, the bill adds a requirement that both new and renewal petitions describe how the school will recruit special education and English language learner students in numbers that are reflective of the population of the district in which the charter school is located.  

The Rainier community is advocating for student needs through adjustments to scheduling and space norms, and they ask you to consider signing and sharing this petition in support of these changes.

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