The COVID-19 pandemic brought about an unprecedented need to reimagine the already fractured education system. Despite parents having more alternatives for their children’s education, the pandemic brought children out of traditional classrooms and introduced them to distance learning.
Distance learning does have its challenges, when it comes to monitoring students and created more obstacles for students with learning disabilities and special needs. However, this environment is being considered as a new way — and part of a hybrid approach of learning, post pandemic, if the student and their parents wish to continue on that path.
The obstacle some families will have has appeared in new legislation aimed to remove access to nonclassroom-based (NCB) charter schools that have long operated with this hybrid approach to learning.
Assembly Bill 1316 seeks to cut funding from 400+ nonclassroom-based charter schools which serve thousands of minority students. 89% are students of color, 90% are from low-income households, and some students face challenges related to access, homelessness, foster care and teen parenting.
The financial blow would be devastating by reducing NCB charter school funding up to 30%.
The bill was brought about due to massive fraud found in the A3 charter school network, which primarily provided an online education.
Norma Vijeila, principal of Alta Vista Innovation High School in Inglewood stated, “Our focus is serving students who have adult responsibilities and need flexibility and mentor-teacher support in order to earn a high school diploma. Some of our students are former dropouts, parenting teens, foster youth, have aged out of traditional school or are experiencing homelessness. A traditional school model is a box they don’t fit in and eliminating NCBs will derail their education.”
Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD) created an internal department tasked with holding charter schools accountable for performance issues, notwithstanding their financials.
“Our district is committed to providing access to a high-quality education for all of our children and that includes holding charter schools, that are not performing well, accountable to our community and families,” said Dr. D’artagnan Scorza, former IUSD Board Advisory Member.
IUSD made tough decisions to close charter schools for performance issues, however, it wasn’t in their purview to audit and determine their fiscal solvency.
Compton Unified School District has also taken steps to ensure accountability of charter schools in their district, establishing an internal review process, but also wants to ensure that policies are in place to maintain integrity of learning institutions.
“AB 1316 seeks to strengthen the oversight of nonclassroom-based programs and protect students in many ways, including by requiring charter schools to follow the same audit procedures and standards as school districts, establishing a funding formula based on the amount of in-classroom instruction provided to pupils, and limiting nonclassroom-based charter authorization by small school districts,” said Micah Ali, president of the Compton school board. “I believe that policies that promote integrity in school oversight—whether public or charter—can help thwart attempts to game the system, so to speak, and can be helpful in ensuring faithful stewardship of students and funding.”
The California Teachers Association (CTA) are huge opponents of charter schools as they believe that it will diminish enrollment which could translate to layoffs, however, under AB 1316, the legislation doesn’t seek to hold traditional nonclassroom-based schools accountable in the same manner they are seeking to hold charters.
“Unlike district schools, NCB charters undergo rigorous checks and balances, including audits by state-appointed agencies and an extensive renewal process every five years with authorizers that requires full transparency of internal operations,” noted Vijeila. “If a student learns better through one-on-one teacher instruction than in a classroom, that’s how we should teach them. Limiting flexible school options that 89% of California parents want, especially during a statewide learning loss crisis, is unconscionable.”