BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 1397


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          Date of Hearing:  May 20, 2015


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS


                                 Jimmy Gomez, Chair


          AB  
          1397 (Ting) - As Amended May 5, 2015


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          Urgency:  No  State Mandated Local Program:  NoReimbursable:  No


          SUMMARY:


          This bill requires the accrediting agency for the California  
          Community Colleges (CCC) to meet specified operational  
          standards, including:









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          1)Requiring each visiting accreditation team to have an  
            appropriate share of academics.


          2)Establishing and enforcing procedures so that accreditation  
            team members do not have conflicts of interest, as specified.


          3)Ensuring that those wanting to appear at open meeting sessions  
            of the agency have an opportunity to attend, and allowing  
            sufficient time for public comment.


          4)Making minutes of open portions of meetings and accreditation  
            votes available on the agency's website.


          5)Preserving all documents generated during a  
            accreditation-related review for at least 36 months.


          6)Providing a community college district with advance notice of  
            an accreditation decision and an opportunity to respond.


          7)Sharing any accreditation team's recommendation for action  
            with the district at least six weeks prior to the agency  
            making a decision on that recommendation.


          8)Having a written policy identifying a period for an  
            institution to correct any deficiencies and criteria for  
            altering that period.


          9)Providing an institution subject to sanction an opportunity to  
            appeal the decision.









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          FISCAL EFFECT:


          To the extent compliance with the above increases the  
          accrediting agency's operating costs, the accreditation fees  
          charged by the agency to community colleges may increase. The  
          additional costs to districts would not be state reimbursable.


          





          COMMENTS:


          1)Purpose. According to the author, AB 1397 establishes  
            reasonable parameters under which any accreditation agency  
            should operate in the course of overseeing California's  
            community and junior colleges.  The author believes this  
            legislation creates strong conflict of interest policies,  
            provides due process to our education institutions and  
            stakeholders, requires open decision-making, and creates a  
            meaningful appeals process.  

          2)Background. Accreditation is a voluntary, non-governmental  
            peer review process used to determine academic quality.   
            Accrediting agencies are private organizations that establish  
            operating standards for educational or professional  
            institutions and programs, determine the extent to which the  
            standards are met, and publicly announce their findings.   
            Under federal law, the USDE establishes the general standards  
            for accreditation agencies and is required to publish a list  
            of recognized accrediting agencies that are deemed reliable  
            authorities on the quality of education provided by their  
            accredited institutions.  Institutional accreditation is a  








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            requirement for participation in federal financial aid  
            programs.  Under federal regulations, accrediting agencies are  
            required to meet general outlined standards, but specific  
            processes and quality standards are left to each accrediting  
            agency to determine.  

            There are six USDE-recognized regional accrediting agencies.  
            Each regional accreditor encompasses public, the vast majority  
            of non-profit private (independent), and some for-profit  
            postsecondary educational institutions in the region it  
            serves. California's regional accrediting agency is separated  
            into two commissions; The Accrediting Commission for Community  
            and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) is the regional accrediting agency  
            for community colleges in the western region (California,  
            Hawaii, and U.S. territories).





            Between 2003 and 2008, ACCJC had placed 37% of CCCs on  
            "sanction" (at risk of losing accreditation).  A study of  
            other regional accreditors showed that during this same time,  
            the percentage of community colleges being sanctioned ranged  
            from 0 to 6%.  The large number of penalties for community  
            colleges under ACCJCs jurisdiction led community college  
            leaders, faculty, and staff to, through the CCC Chancellor's  
            Office (CCCCO) Consultation Council, review and make  
            recommendations regarding ACCJC's actions. 





            In June of 2014, the BSA released an audit of ACCJC's  
            application of the accreditation process.  The audit was  
            conducted at the request of the Joint Legislative Audit  
            Committee (JLAC) following concerns among several legislators  
            over the ACCJC decision to terminate accreditation for City  








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            College of San Francisco (CCSF).  The BSA audit includes a  
            series of recommendations to improve CCC accreditation; among  
            the recommendations supported by CCCCO, BSA recommended the  
            CCCCO facilitate improved communication between CCCs and  
            ACCJC.  BSA also recommended allowing CCCs flexibility to  
            choose an accrediting agency; the CCCCO responded that this  
            recommendation should not be pursued as it could lead to  
            reduced transparency, reduced employee mobility within CCCs,  
            and added challenges in overseeing colleges effectively. The  
            CCC Board of Governors (BOG) took action to remove ACCJC from  
            the regulatory requirement for CCC accreditation, but will  
            still require a single accreditor for all colleges.





            This bill sets a precedent that the state has a role in the  
            peer-review and oversight provided by an accrediting agency.  
            Proponents argue that accrediting agencies play an important  
            role in oversight of institutions receiving public funding,  
            and that the public has an interest in fairness in  
            accreditation. Conversely, the Community College League of  
            California argues that accreditation is meant to be a  
            peer-review process, governed by a national standard.  The  
            League argues this bill would make it very difficult for the  
            agency to comply with federal requirements and attract  
            qualified staff, visiting team members, or commissioners.





          3)Related Legislation. AB 404 (Chiu), awaiting referral in the  
            Senate, requires the CCC BOG to conduct a survey of the CCC,  
            including faculty and classified personnel, to develop a  
            report to be transmitted to the USDE that reflects a  
            systemwide evaluation of the agency based on criteria used to  
            determine an accreditor's status.   








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            AB 1385 (Ting), pending in the Assembly, prohibits the  
            accrediting agency for the CCCs from imposing a special  
            assessment on CCCs for legal fees for any lawsuit, unless  
            there has been an affirmative vote of the majority of the  
            chief executive officers, or their designees, of all of the  
            CCCs.  





          Analysis Prepared by:Chuck Nicol / APPR. / (916)  
          319-2081