BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó

                                                                      AB 1397

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          1397 (Ting)

          As Amended  May 28, 2015

          Majority vote

          |Committee       |Votes |Ayes                |Noes                  |
          |                |      |                    |                      |
          |                |      |                    |                      |
          |Higher          |10-3  |Medina, Bloom,      |Baker, Chávez, Harper |
          |Education       |      |Irwin,              |                      |
          |                |      |Jones-Sawyer,       |                      |
          |                |      |Levine, Linder,     |                      |
          |                |      |Low, Santiago,      |                      |
          |                |      |Weber, Williams     |                      |
          |                |      |                    |                      |
          |Appropriations  |12-0  |Gomez, Bloom,       |                      |
          |                |      |Bonta, Calderon,    |                      |
          |                |      |Eggman,             |                      |
          |                |      |                    |                      |
          |                |      |                    |                      |
          |                |      |Eduardo Garcia,     |                      |
          |                |      |Holden, Quirk,      |                      |
          |                |      |Rendon, Wagner,     |                      |
          |                |      |Weber, Wood         |                      |
          |                |      |                    |                      |
          |                |      |                    |                      |


                                                                      AB 1397

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          SUMMARY:  Establishes the California Community Colleges (CCCs)  
          Fair Accreditation Act of 2015 (Act) and requires the accrediting  
          agency for CCCs to meet specified operational standards.   
          Specifically, this bill requires:  

          1)Each visiting accreditation team to have an appropriate share of  

          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 Web site.

          5)Preserving all documents generated during an  
            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  


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          9)Providing an institution subject to sanction an opportunity to  
            appeal the decision and prohibiting appeal panel members from  
            having a conflict of interest.

          EXISTING LAW:  

          1)Establishes the CCC Board of Governors (BOG) to provide general  
            supervision over the CCC and requires the BOG to prescribe  
            minimum standards for CCC formation and operation (Education  
            Code (EDC) Section 66700). 
          2)Requires the BOG to develop minimum standards governing academic  
            standards, employment policies and shared governance; evaluate  
            CCC fiscal and educational effectiveness and provide assistance  
            when districts encounter management difficulties; administer  
            state funding and establish minimum conditions entitling CCC  
            districts to receive state funds; requires the CCC BOG, in  
            determining if a CCC district satisfies the minimum conditions  
            for receipt of apportionment funding, to review the  
            accreditation status of the CCCs within that district review and  
            approve educational programs (EDC Section 70901).

          3)Requires the accrediting agency for CCCs 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, on a biannual basis, any  
            accreditation policy changes that affect the accreditation  
            process or status for a CCC; and, requires the CCC Chancellor's  
            Office to ensure that the appropriate policy and budget  
            subcommittees are provided the aforementioned required  
            information (EDC Sections 72208).

          4)BOG regulations (5 California Code of Regulations (CCR) Section  


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            51016) require CCCs to be accredited by the Accrediting  
            Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). However,  
            BOG recently approved regulatory changes to remove the explicit  
            requirement of accreditation by the ACCJC.  The regulatory  
            change would provide that accreditation shall be determined only  
            by an accrediting agency approved recommended by the CCC  
            Chancellor and approved by the BOG. The Board is authorized to  
            approve only an accreditor recognized and approved by the United  
            States Secretary of Education (USDE) under the Higher Education  
            Act of 1965 acting within the agency's scope of recognition by  
            the Secretary.

          FISCAL EFFECT:  According to the Assembly Appropriations  
          Committee, 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:  Purpose of this bill.  According to the author, this  
          bill 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.  

          Accreditation.  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.  Accrediting agency  
          membership consists of the accredited institutions and  
          organizational activities are funded through fees/dues required of  
          accredited institutions.  Under federal law, the USDE establishes  


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          "criteria for recognition" of an accrediting agency and publishes  
          a list of "recognized" agencies.  Institutions must be recognized  
          in order to participate in federal financial aid programs.  Under  
          California law, institutions must be accredited in order to  
          participate in the Cal Grant Program.  Accreditation, and most  
          commonly regional accreditation, is established by California's  
          public and independent universities as a requirement for transfer  
          of educational credits earned by a student at another institution.

          Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).   
          ACCJC is the regional accrediting agency for community colleges in  
          the western region (California, Hawaii, and United States  
          territories).  Commission membership consists of the institutions  
          ACCJC has accredited.  The 19 ACCJC commissioners are elected by a  
          vote of the presidents of the member-colleges and serve up to two  
          three-year terms.   

           ACCJC bylaws govern, among other areas, commission meetings,  
          responsibilities of commissioners, and the appeal process for  
          institutions appealing a denial or termination of accreditation.   
          ACCJC bylaws may be amended by a majority vote of the  
          Commissioners.  Under ACCJC bylaws, the President (Chief Executive  
          Officer) is appointed, and may be removed, by the Commissioners.   
          The President is responsible for general supervision, direction,  
          and control of ACCJC operations.  

          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. 


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          In June of 2014, the Bureau of State Audits (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 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.

          Analysis Prepared by:                                               
                          Laura Metune / HIGHER ED. / (916) 319-3960  FN:  


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