Comstock's magazine 0419 - April 2019 - Page 53

and another would allow districts to consider the cost of a charter school to the district when deciding whether to ap- prove its petition. Newsom has also tapped Thurmond to lead a task force to study the financial impacts of charter schools. One bill making charters subject to increased transpar- ency has already been fast-tracked into law under Newsom. To many reform advocates, it makes sense that the first item on the docket involved open meeting and disclosure rules — essentially one of the only issues for which both the char- ter movement and traditional public school advocates have found common ground. Until Newsom approved Senate Bill 126 in March, charters did not have to comply with the Brown Act, the California Public Records Act or Government Code Section 1090, which prohibits public officials or employees from involvement in contracts in which they have a financial interest. (Gov. Brown vetoed similar bills during his tenure.) The legislation was championed by parties on both sides, in- cluding the California Charter Schools Association and the California Teachers Association. “If there’s tax dollars that go to a public entity, you should be able to have meetings that are subjected to the open meet- ing laws,” says Placer County Superintendent of Schools Gay- le Garbolino-Mojica. “You should not be able to financially benefit under Government Code 1090. And if you have people inquire about how you spend your money or how you oper- ate, you should be required to provide that documentation.” Many charter operators, including Natomas Charter School, Kairos Public Schools in Vacaville, and Gateway Community Charters in Sacramento and Yolo counties, to name a few, had already voluntarily put policies and systems in place to adhere to these rules. Cindy Petersen is the superintendent and CEO of Gate- way Community Charters, a charter management organiza- tion that operates nine schools. She says her organization has followed the rules outlined in SB 126 since its inception. “I think this transparency should apply to charters and charter organizations. We should have the transparency because we do have the public dollars, and therefore we should be able to transparently show that we don’t have a conflict of interest.” CCSA said in a press release that SB 126 is “a balanced, fair application” of the open government and conflict-of-in- terest laws, and “makes permanent the transparency and governance practices already followed by the majority of charter schools throughout the state.” Proponents say increased transparency will help deter fi- nancial abuses and allow the public to better understand the inner workings of charter management operations, which are private entities that receive taxpayer money and are run by Free Checking. More Rewards. More Freedom. 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