Amended in Assembly May 28, 2015

Amended in Assembly May 5, 2015

Amended in Assembly April 14, 2015

California Legislature—2015–16 Regular Session

Assembly BillNo. 1397


Introduced by Assembly Member Ting

(begin deleteCoauthor: end deletebegin insertCoauthors: end insertAssemblybegin delete Memberend deletebegin insert Members Gipson,end insert Santiagobegin insert, and Wagnerend insert)

(Coauthor: Senator Hall)

February 27, 2015


An act to add Article 8 (commencing with Section 72800) to Chapter 6 of Part 45 of Division 7 of Title 3 of the Education Code, relating to community colleges.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 1397, as amended, Ting. Community colleges: California Community Colleges Fair Accreditation Act of 2015.

Existing law establishes the California Community Colleges, under the administration of the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges, as one of the segments of public postsecondary education in this state. Existing law specifies the duties of the board of governors, including, among other duties, establishing minimum standards for the formation of community colleges and districts. Under existing regulatory authority, the board of governors requires each community college to be accredited. Existing law requires the accrediting agency for the community colleges to report to the appropriate policy and budget subcommittees of the Legislature upon the issuance of a decision that affects the accreditation status of a community college and to report, on a biannual basis, any accreditation policy changes that affect the accreditation process or status for a community college.

This bill would enact the California Community Colleges Fair Accreditation Act of 2015. The act would require that an appropriate percentage of each visiting accreditation team from the accrediting agency for the California Community Colleges be composed of academics, as defined. The bill would prohibit persons with conflicts of interest, as defined, from serving on a visiting accreditation team.

The bill would require the accrediting agency to conduct the meetings of its decisionmaking body to ensure the ability of members of the public to attend those meetings. The bill would require the accrediting agency to preserve all documents generated during an accreditation-related review, as specified. The bill would require the agency’s accreditation-related decisions to be based on written, published standards in accordance with state and federal statutes and regulations, as specified.

The bill would authorize an institution to submit an appeal of a decision by the accrediting agency to subject that institution to a sanction of probation or a more serious sanction.

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: no.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

P2    1

SECTION 1.  

Article 8 (commencing with Section 72800) is
2added to Chapter 6 of Part 45 of Division 7 of Title 3 of the 3Education Code, to read:

4 

5Article 8.  Accreditation
6

 

7

72800.  

(a) This article shall be known, and may be cited, as
8the California Community Colleges Fair Accreditation Act of
92015.

10(b) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

11(1) The goal of accreditation is to promote and ensure higher
12education quality through peer evaluation and review.

13(2) The community college accrediting agency should be a
14nonprofit, private educational association of regional scope,
15responsible for developing evaluation criteria, conducting peer
P3    1evaluations, assessing whether criteria are met, and supporting
2institutional development and improvement.

3(3) The community college accrediting agency should have a
4comprehensive and nondiscriminatory accreditation process that
5is in compliance with the requirements of applicable federal and
6state laws and regulations.

7(c) This article shall apply only to accrediting procedures
8regarding institutions located in California.

9

72801.  

(a) As used in this article:

10(1) “Academic” means a person who is currently, or has recently,
11directly engaged in a significant manner in postsecondary teaching
12or research.

13(2) “Agency” means the accrediting agency for the California
14Community Colleges.

15(3) “Near relative” means a spouse, including a registered
16domestic partner, child, parent, sibling, person in an in-law
17relationship, or a step relative in one of the relationships referenced
18in this subparagraph.

19(b) The agency shall operate only by policies that are in
20compliance with the federal criteria for recognition of an
21accrediting agency pursuant to Subpart 2 (commencing with
22Section 496) of Part H of Title IV of the federal Higher Education
23Act of 1965, as amended.

24(c) (1) Each visiting accreditation team sent out by the agency
25shall be composed of an appropriate percentage of academics.

26(2) The agency shall establish and enforce procedures to ensure
27that persons serving on visiting accreditation teams do not have
28conflicts of interest. No person may serve on a visiting
29accreditation team who has a conflict of interest. For the purposes
30of this paragraph, a conflict of interest is determined by any
31circumstance in which an individual’s capacity to make an
32impartial or unbiased accreditation recommendation may be
33affected, including, but not necessarily limited to, any of the
34following:

35(A) Paid service in any capacity to the institution under review.

36(B) Serving as, or having a near relative serving as, a current
37member, staffbegin delete memberend deletebegin insert member,end insert or consultant of the agency’s
38decisionmaking body.

P4    1(C) Serving as, or having a near relative serving as, a current
2member, staffbegin delete memberend deletebegin insert member,end insert or consultant of the institution’s
3governing body.

4(3) A prospective member of a visiting accreditation team shall
5submit an appropriate disclosure form to the agency, declaring
6that he or she does not violate the visiting team conflict-of-interest
7criteria in paragraph (2). Copies of these forms shall be provided
8to the institution under review.

9(d) (1) The agency shall conduct its meetings so as to ensure
10that those members of the public who desire to appear at open
11sessions of agency meetings have an opportunity to attend those
12portions of the meetings.

13(2) A sufficient length of time shall be allowed for public
14comment at agency meetings, and no agency action related to an
15institution’s accreditation shall be made prior to the decisionmaking
16body’s taking of public comment.

17(3) The agency shall make an accreditation decision by a vote
18of its decisionmaking body. The outcome of the vote shall be
19recorded and posted to the agency’s Internet Web site. Minutes
20from all open session portions of the meetings of the
21decisionmaking body of the agency shall be recorded and posted
22to the agency’s Internet Web site.

23(4) Any officer or employee of the agency with an actual or
24appearance of a conflict of interest shall be disqualified from
25participating in discussion and voting. For purposes of this clause,
26a conflict of interest is defined as any circumstance in which an
27individual’s capacity to make an impartial or unbiased
28recommendation or decision may be affected, including by either
29of the following:

30(A) Paid service in any capacity to the institution under review.

31(B) Serving as, or having a near relative serving as, a current
32member, staff member, or consultant of the institution’s governing
33body.

34(e) The agency shall preserve all documents generated during
35an accreditation-related review, including, but not necessarily
36limited to, email correspondence, for no less than 36 months after
37the completion of an accreditation-related review. All reports,
38evaluations, recommendations, and decision documents generated
39during an accreditation-related review shall be retained indefinitely.

P5    1(f) The agency’s accreditation-related decisions shall be based
2on written, published standards, and shall be in accordance with,
3and not be inconsistent with, state and federal statutes and
4regulations.

5(g) No revision shall be made by the agency to a proposed
6visiting accreditation team report unless the revision is shared with
7 the members of the visiting accreditation team and with the
8institution under review, and each is afforded an opportunity to
9comment on the revision.

10(h) (1) A community college or a community college district
11shall be given advance notice of proposed visiting accreditation
12team reports, so that the college or district may respond to correct
13factual errors or dissent from conclusions. The institution under
14review shall be afforded adequate time to review the reports before
15a meeting of the agency’s decisionmaking body at which a decision
16relating to the institution’s accreditation is to be made, which shall
17be no less than six weeks before the meeting. The institution under
18review may respond to these reports in writing, orally at the
19meeting, or in both of those ways.

20(2) Any visiting accrediting team recommendation for action
21shall be shared with the institution under review at least six weeks
22before a meeting of the agency’s decisionmaking body, so that the
23institution may decide whether and how to respond to the
24recommendation. Any recommendation for action made to the
25agency’s decisionmaking body by a person employed by or
26representing the agency, including its staff, agents, and employees,
27shall be shared with the institution subject to the recommendation
28at least six weeks before a meeting of the agency’s decisionmaking
29body relating to the recommendation.

30(i) (1) The agency shall have a written policy, consistent with
31federal law, that does both of the following:

32(A) Identifies a period for an institution to correct any
33deficiencies that have prevented the institution from receiving full
34accreditation.

35 (B) Provides criteria for altering that period.

36(2) The policy adopted under paragraph (1) shall be published,
37and shall provide a process through which an institution may
38submit applications for an extension, even if a decision has
39expressly denied such an extension. An application for an
P6    1extension, and the decision of the agency as to the application,
2shall be made publicly available.

3(j) (1) Whenever the agency’s decisionmaking body issues a
4sanction of probation or a more serious sanction, the institution
5subject to the sanction shall be given written notice of the alleged
6sanctionable offenses or deficiencies. The institution shall be
7afforded an opportunity to submit an appeal of the decision to issue
8the sanction.

9(2) A member of an appeal panel with an actual conflict of
10interest, or the appearance of a conflict of interest, shall be
11disqualified from participating in an appeal submitted pursuant to
12paragraph (1). For purposes of this paragraph, a conflict of interest
13shall be defined as any circumstance in which an individual’s
14capacity to make an impartial or unbiased recommendation or
15decision may be affected, including bybegin delete eitherend deletebegin insert anyend insert of the following:

16(A) Paid service in any capacity to the institution under review.

17(B) Serving as, or having a near relative serving as, a current
18member, staff member, or consultant of the institution’s governing
19body.

begin insert

20(C) Having voted or had the opportunity to vote, as a member
21of the agency’s decisionmaking body, on the sanction being
22appealed.

end insert
begin insert

23(D) Having served as a member of the visiting accreditation
24team which submitted the recommendation for the sanction being
25appealed.

end insert

26(3) A prospective member of an appeal panel shall submit an
27appropriate disclosure form to the agency, declaring that he or she
28does not violate the conflict-of-interest criteria listed in
29subparagraphs (A)begin delete and (B)end deletebegin insert to (D), inclusive,end insert of paragraph (2).
30Copies of these forms shall be provided to the institution that is
31making the appeal.



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