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California to Charter Schools: Parent Volunteering Requirements Are Illegal

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Cross-posted from the Charters & Choice blog. 

California's education department is telling charter and district schools that it's illegal to require parents to volunteer at a public school. The state's charter school association says it's committed to spreading the word. 

The department's advisory is a reaction to a report released in November that found many California charter schools had parent work quotas. Specifically, 30 percent of 500 schools analyzed by the nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization Public Advocates required parents to do service work for the school or face penalties.

The report argued that such polices discriminate against single-parent and low-income households, but it also said that charter schools had been getting conflicting information on whether such policies were legal. This from the blog post I wrote at the time:

"The report points out that a February 2006 memorandum from the California Department of Education's general deputy counsel to its charter school division said that a charter petition could legally include a work requirement for parents. The report says charter schools may still be relying on that memorandum for guidance."

Public Advocates threatened to pursue litigation if the California education department didn't clarify the rules and take steps to end the practice.

Although the California Charter Schools Association said at the time it doubted the problem was as widespread as the Public Advocates report made it sound, the two organizations have banded together to ask the state education department for clarity on the laws and to educate school leaders.

"To that end, we have sent an advisory to our members and will continue to provide guidance regarding best practices that maximize parent participation while complying with this law," the head of CCSA, Jed Wallace, said in a joint statement with Public Advocates.

A lawyer with Public Advocates said the group will continue to monitor schools to make sure they're following the rules.


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