Charter facilities regs approved; next steps studied

EdCal has learned the Office of Administrative Law approved new regulations pertaining to Proposition 39. Over the past couple years, ACSA has been working hard to make regulatory changes proposed for school districts under the requirement to provide facilities for charter schools more acceptable to school districts. These proposed regulations were discussed at length with the California Department of Education and the State Board of Education.

ACSA, the California School Boards Association and the California Associa­tion of School Business Officials have been working collectively to oppose the proposed changes to Prop. 39. The associations have repeatedly sent lengthy, detailed letters outlining opposition to the proposed regulations only to get minor acknowledgements in return.

ACSA has testified before the SBE at each of its hearings on the proposed regulations, believing that they are outside the scope of the board and must be introduced through legislation. The regulations had been submitted to the Office of Administrative Law and then pulled back, only to be resubmitted with a few new changes – not the changes the associations supported.

The new regulations will go into effect on March 28, 2008. However, these changes will not impact currently pending facilities requests. The regulations will impact charter school requests in the fall of 2008 for the 2009-10 school year.

The changes in the regulations are varied and quite extensive. ACSA, CSBA and CASBO are currently considering next steps, including issuing a very detailed advisory to the changes. In the meantime, a few of the changes ACSA members will want to be aware of include:

  • Shortened deadlines for responding to facilities requests with additional consequences in place for school districts that miss deadlines. These shorter timelines will impose additional hardships on districts, especially those with multiple charter requests.
  • Revising the term “contiguous” by requiring charter students be given the same consideration as in-district students, subject to the requirement that the facilities provided to charter schools must be contiguous. This term is very ambiguous and is not measurable. If the facilities offer cannot accommodate a charter school at a single site, the district’s governing board must make an appropriate finding and adopt a statement of reasons why.
  • Revising furniture and equipment requirements to be reasonably equivalent to comparison school groups. This new standard is confusing and creates an ambiguous standard that is not tied to standard accounting practices for its property assets and will likely add to the confusion of this issue and enlarge the scope of what districts must provide. It appears that districts will be required to provide front office equipment and additional, undefined, support furnishings and equipment beyond the classroom.
  • Special consideration of conversion charter schools to require a district to maintain a conversion charter school on its original site. The district would be allowed to move the school only if the charter school subsequently changed its charter or through a specified waiver process. This provision provides conversion charters with the right to occupy facilities beyond what is provided to other non-charter schools and start-up charters in the district.
  • Facilities charges must now be reported to CDE by June 1 of each year. The charter school is required to submit its per-square-foot charge while the districts can provide their explanation of these charges if they want to.
As mentioned, ACSA is working with the other groups to determine any possible next steps. There is a lot at stake for school districts with these new regulations, so the discussions are very careful and deliberate. EdCal will keep members apprised as developments occur.

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