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Public Charter Schools May See More Pandemic Protections

Senator Marie Alvarado-Gil (D-Jackson) this past week introduced SB 739, new legislation that will impact more than 284,000 students that attend charter public schools by extending the charter renewal period by an additional two years. The protection was first put in place by Governor Newsom and the Legislature in 2021 to mitigate disruption to students early in the pandemic, particularly in low-income communities.

“Under current law, charter schools are required to be renewed periodically based on specific metrics of school performance on the state dashboard. However, significant data gaps and testing suspensions caused by the pandemic upended our system, making it impossible to accurately measure school performance,” said Senator Alvarado-Gil.

Charter public schools are held to a high standard by law. They are reviewed for academic performance typically every five years, in order to have their charters renewed. When the charter renewal extension was enacted in 2021, there was an assumption that the State’s schools and accountability system would be fully back on-track in time for schools expiring in 2024 to renew. However, in the 2021-22 academic year, schools faced an additional year of unstable student attendance and school closures. Further, the inability to assess student growth due to testing gaps eliminates a critical factor necessary for the charter renewal assessment in accordance with current law.

“Renewing charter schools based on the system fractured by the pandemic is misaligned with the state’s commitment to continuous evaluation. It is vital that the state should only resume charter renewals based on assessment of post-pandemic data and improvement of comparable, valid dashboard indicators,” said Senator Alvarado-Gil.

The new legislation would leave every accountability measure that charter schools must comply with in place but extend renewal of charter public schools for an additional two years.

SB 739 is supported by charter public schools across the state along with the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), which is the state’s largest advocacy organization for charter schools in the Golden State.

“I want to thank Senator Alvarado-Gil for her leadership on this issue, which is so vital for charter schools who are serving our most vulnerable student populations, which will be most impacted if these pandemic protections are not extended,” said Myrna Castrejón, CEO and President of the CCSA. “All public schools are dealing with learning loss, working to re-engage their students, and teacher burnout and a resulting shortage. We should not be unfairly penalizing our charter public schools by forcing them to face renewal while their limited resources are focused on what they do best, delivering a high-quality education to their students.”