Office of the Attorney General
State of California
- Are a California charter school and its governing body subject to the Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act?
- Is a California charter school’s governing body subject to Government Code section 1090?
- Is a California charter school’s governing body subject to the Political Reform Act of 1974?
- Are the books and records of California charter schools subject to review and inspection by a grand jury?
- Yes, a California charter school and its governing body are subject to the Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act.
- Yes, a California charter school’s governing body is subject to Government Code section 1090.
- Yes, a California charter school’s governing body is subject to the Political Reform Act of 1974.
- Yes, in general, the books and records of California charter schools that are chartered by a school district or county board of education are subject to review and inspection by a grand jury. However, the books and records of California corporate charter schools that are directly chartered by the State Board of Education are not subject to review and inspection by a grand jury.
We are presented with a series of questions about whether charter schools in California are subject to the same public-integrity statutes that apply to traditional public schools. For the reasons set out below, we conclude that charter schools are subject to these salutary laws.
Charter schools are a class of public schools. The California Department of Education offers this description:
A charter school is a public school that provides instruction in any combination of grades, kindergarten through grade twelve. Parents, teachers, or community members may initiate a charter petition, which is typically presented to and approved by a local school district governing board. California Education Code (EC) also allows, under certain circumstances, for county boards of education and the State Board of Education to be charter authorizing entities.
Specific goals and operating procedures for a charter school are detailed in the agreement between the charter authorizing entity and the charter developer. A charter school is exempted from many of the statutes and regulations that apply to school districts. Students enroll in charter schools on a voluntary basis.1
Charter schools are created pursuant to the Charter Schools Act of 1992.2 In passing the Act, the Legislature declared its purposes as follows:
It is the intent of the Legislature, in enacting this part, to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, pupils, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently from the existing school district structure, as a method to accomplish all of the following:
However, such schools, like other charter schools, may be subject to audit by the California State Auditor. (Cf. Cornejo v. Lightbourne (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 932, 940 (“State Auditor’s function can be described as a grand jury with jurisdiction over state agencies”); see, e.g., California State Auditor, Magnolia Education and Research Foundation and Magnolia Science Academies: 2014-135 Audit Scope and Objectives (Aug. 5, 2014) https://www.bsa.ca.gov/reports/scope/2014-135 [as of Dec. 26, 2018].)