What AB 1360 Means for Your Charter Petition & School Policies

November 6, 2017

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On October 13, Governor Brown signed AB 1360, which ensures that California charter schools are accessible to all students, strengthens due process rights for students facing dismissal from a charter school, and solidifies the authority for charter schools to offer admissions preferences that are otherwise consistent with law. The changes, summarized below, will take effect on January 1, 2018.

Existing charter schools must update their petition to reflect these changes at renewal time. However, schools wishing to implement new admissions preferences prior to renewal will need to seek authorizer approval through a material revision.

Schools should consult their legal counsel for advice on how the new law affects their charter school, as well as when revising their charter petition and school policies to ensure compliance.

Charter School Admissions Preferences:

AB 1360 clarifies that admissions preferences may be permitted by charter school authorizers, subject to certain requirements, and expressly provides for the priority order of preferences to be determined in the charter petition. The bill expressly permits authorizer approval of admissions preferences for siblings of students admitted or attending the charter school, as well as children of the charter school's teachers, staff, and founders identified in the initial charter. (Educ. Code 47605(d)(2)(B).). Other admissions preferences must meet the following requirements:

  • Preferences must be approved by the charter authorizer at a public hearing;
  • Preferences must be consistent with federal law, the California Constitution, and Section 200 of the Education Code, which prohibits discrimination;
  • Preferences must not result in limiting enrollment access for students with disabilities, academically low-achieving students, English learners, neglected or delinquent students, homeless students, economically disadvantaged students, foster youth, and must not limit enrollment based on nationality, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation; and
  • Preferences cannot require mandatory parental volunteer hours for continued enrollment in the charter school, consistent with the requires of Education Code Section 49011. (Educ. Code 47605(d)(2)(B)(i-iv).)

In addition, AB 1360 requires that charter petitions include a reasonably comprehensive description of the admissions policies and procedures for the charter school. This requirement is broader than the charter petition requirements under existing law, under which petitions must only describe proposed admissions requirements. (Educ. Code 47605(b)(5)(H).).

Feeder Patterns:

In conjunction with provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act ("ESSA"), charter schools may, with authorizer approval, implement "feeder pattern" admissions preferences. In defining charter schools, the ESSA acknowledges that a charter school with an affiliated charter school may automatically enroll students who are enrolled in the immediate prior grade level of the affiliated charter school. For additional openings, including those created through attrition, the school must admit students on the basis of a lottery. (20 U.S.C.A. ยง 7221(i)(H)(ii).).

Because state law does not expressly authorize automatic enrollment of students matriculating from an affiliated charter school, charter schools must obtain authorizer approval, as with other admissions preferences. However, the ESSA provides compelling support for approval of this admissions preference.

In addition, neither federal nor state law currently define the term "affiliated" as used in this context. Absent further guidance from the U.S. Department of Education or California Department of Education, it will be up to the charter school and authorizer to determine whether a charter school is "affiliated" for purposes of feeder pattern admissions preferences.

Suspension, Expulsion and Dismissal Procedures

Existing law requires charter school petitions to describe the schools' proposed suspension and expulsion procedures. AB 1360 requires charter petitions to include an explanation of how the school will comply with federal and state constitutional due process requirements. (Educ. Code 47605(b)(5)(J).). These procedures must meet the following minimum due process requirements:

  • For suspensions of fewer than 10 days, the charter school must provide oral or written notice of the charges against the student. If the student denies the charges, the school must provide explanation of the evidence that supports the charges, and an opportunity for the student to present his or her side of the story. (Educ. Code 47605(b)(5)(J)(i).)
  • For expulsions or suspensions of 10 days or more, the school must provide timely, written notice of the charges against the student and an explanation of the student's basic rights. Within a reasonable number of days, the school must also hold a hearing adjudicated by a neutral officer, at which the student has a fair opportunity to present testimony, evidence, and witnesses, to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses, and at which the student has the right to bring legal counsel or an advocate. (Educ. Code 47605(b)(5)(J)(ii).)

Charter petitions must also include a clear statement that no student will be involuntarily disenrolled, dismissed, or transferred by the charter school for any reason, unless the parent or guardian has been provided written notice at least five school days before the effective date of the removal. For all involuntary removals, including expulsions and dismissals for non-disciplinary reasons, parents must be informed of their right to a hearing before the effective date of the removal. If the student's parent or guardian initiates the hearing procedures, the student must remain enrolled until the charter school issues a final decision. (Educ. Code 47605(b)(5)(J)(iii).)

Parental Involvement:

AB 1360 also makes clear that charter schools may not require parental involvement for acceptance to, or continued enrollment at, the charter school. While charter schools may encourage parental involvement, they must affirmatively notify current and prospective parents that parental involvement is not a requirement for acceptance or enrollment in the charter school. (Educ. Code 47605(n).)