BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó






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          |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE            |                       AB 1397|
          |Office of Senate Floor Analyses   |                              |
          |(916) 651-1520    Fax: (916)      |                              |
          |327-4478                          |                              |
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                                   THIRD READING 


          Bill No:  AB 1397
          Author:   Ting (D) and Bonta (D), et al.
          Amended:  9/4/15 in Senate
          Vote:     21  

           SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE:  6-3, 7/15/15
           AYES:  Runner, Block, Leyva, Mendoza, Pan, Vidak
           NOES:  Liu, Hancock, Monning

           SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE:  6-0, 8/17/15
           AYES:  Lara, Beall, Hill, Leyva, Mendoza, Nielsen
           NO VOTE RECORDED:  Bates

           ASSEMBLY FLOOR:  61-18, 6/4/15 - See last page for vote

           SUBJECT:   Community colleges:  California Community Colleges  
                     Fair Accreditation Act of 2015


          SOURCE:    Author

          DIGEST:   This bill establishes the California Community  
          Colleges (CCC) Fair Accreditation Act of 2015 and requires the  
          accrediting agency for CCCs to meet specified operational  
          standards.

          Senate Floor Amendments of 9/4/15 1) include a severability  
          clause; 2) modify the period of time required for preserving  
          documents; 3) add an exception to providing a community college  
          advance notice and review period for exigent circumstances; 4)  
          include a time frame for making the agenda available to the  
          public; and 5) state legislative intent that the provisions of  
          this bill be implemented in manner that comply with federal law.  








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          ANALYSIS:    Existing law confers upon the CCC Board of  
          Governor's (BOG) the ability to prescribe minimum standards for  
          the formation and operation of community colleges and exercise  
          general supervision over the community colleges. (Education Code  
          § 66700 and § 70901)  

          As such, regulations (Title 5 California Code of Regulations §  
          51016) have been adopted to require each community college  
          within a district to be an accredited institution with the  
          Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)  
          determining accreditation. 

          This bill establishes the CCC Fair Accreditation Act of 2015 and  
          requires the accrediting agency for CCCs to meet specified  
          operational standards. Specifically, this bill:

           1) Establishes the following requirements for the accrediting  
             agency's decision making body and visiting teams:

              a)    Requires each visiting accreditation team to have an  
                appropriate share of academics and defines academics to  
                mean a person who is currently, or has recently directly  
                engaged in a significant manner in postsecondary teaching  
                or research. 

              b)    Requires the agency to establish and enforce  
                procedures for the purpose of ensuring that accreditation  
                team members do not have conflicts of interest and  
                prohibits any person from serving on a visiting team who  
                has a conflict of interest defined as any circumstance in  
                which an individuals' capacity to make an impartial or  
                unbiased recommendation may be affected by:

                 i)       Paid service in any capacity to the institution  
                   under review. 

                 ii)      Servings as, or having a near relative serving  
                   as, a current member, staff member, or consultant of  
                   the agency's decision-making body or the institution's  
                   governing body. 

                 iii)     Candidacy for employment at the institution  







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                   being evaluated.

                 iv)      A written agreement with an institution that may  
                   create a conflict of interest or appearance of a  
                   conflict of interest with the institution being  
                   evaluated.

                 v)       Having a personal or financial interest in the  
                   ownership or operation of the institution being  
                   evaluated.

                 vi)      Receipt of honoraria, honors, or awards from the  
                   institution being evaluated.

                 vii)     Other personal or professional connections that  
                   would create a conflict of interest or the appearance  
                   of a conflict of interest.

              c)    Requires a prospective member of a visiting team to  
                submit an appropriate disclosure form to the agency  
                declaring that he/she does not violate the conflict of  
                interest criteria. Requires copies of these forms to be  
                provided to the institution under review. 

              d)    Prohibits revisions from being made by the agency to a  
                proposed visiting accreditation team report unless the  
                revision is share with members of the visiting  
                accreditation team and with the institution under review,  
                and each is afforded an opportunity to comment on the  
                revision.

           2) Requires accrediting agency's decision-making body to adhere  
             to the following meeting procedures: 

              a)    Members of the public must have an opportunity to  
                attend open session portions of the meeting. 

              b)    Agendas shall be made available to the public no less  
                than 30 days before each meeting, as specified and posted  
                to agency's Internet Web site.

              c)    A sufficient length of time must be allowed for public  
                comment, and public comment must be allowed prior to  
                action related to an institution's accreditation. 







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              d)    Accreditation decisions must be made by a vote of the  
                accrediting agency's decision-making body in a public  
                meeting. The outcome of the vote and minutes from the  
                meeting must be recorded and posted to the agency's  
                Internet Web site. 

              e)    Prohibits any officer, employee, representative, or  
                consultant of the agency with an actual or appearance of a  
                conflict of interest, as specified, from participating in  
                discussion and voting.

           3) Requires the agency to preserve all documents generated  
             during an accreditation-related review, including but not  
             limited to, email correspondence, for no less than three  
             years after the completion of an accreditation review.  
             Requires all reports, evaluations, recommendations, and  
             decision documents generated during an accreditation related  
             review to be retained for a specified period of time.  

           4) Requires the agency's accreditation-related decision to be  
             based on written, published standards in accordance with  
             state and federal statutes and regulations. 

           5) Establishes the following due process requirements:

              a)    A community college or a community college district  
                must be given advance notice of proposed visiting  
                accreditation team reports so that the college or district  
                may respond to correct factual errors or dissent from  
                conclusions. 

              b)    The institution under review must be afforded adequate  
                time to review the reports at least six weeks prior to a  
                meeting of the agency's decision-making body at which a  
                decision relating to the institution's accreditation is to  
                be made.

              c)    The accrediting agency's chief executive officer may  
                declare a shorten time period for giving advance notice  
                and review period to an institution under review, as  
                specified, if exigent circumstances exist.  

              d)    Any visiting accrediting team recommendation for  







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                action must be shared with the institutions under review  
                at least six weeks prior to a meeting of the agency's  
                decision-making body.  

              e)    Any recommendation for action by a person employed or  
                representing the agency, as specified, must be shared with  
                the institution at least six weeks before a meeting  
                relating to the recommendation takes place, as specified.

           1) Requires the agency to have a written policy, consistent  
             with federal law, that does all of the following:

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

              b)    Provides criteria for altering that period. 

              c)    The policy must be published, and must provide a  
                process through which an institution may submit  
                applications for an extension, even if a decision has  
                expressly denied such an extension. The application for an  
                extension and the decision related to the extension shall  
                be made publically available. 

           1) Requires all of the following in regards to the agency's  
             appeals process:

              a)    Provides that when a sanction of probation or a more  
                serious sanction is issued by the agency's decision making  
                body an institution shall be given written notice of the  
                alleged offenses or deficiencies. 

              b)    Provides that the institution must be afforded an  
                opportunity to submit an appeal of the decision to issue  
                the sanction. 

              c)    Prohibits a member of an appeal panel with actual  
                conflict of interest, or the appearance of a conflict of  
                interest, as specified, from participating in an appeal  
                that a member of an appeal submitted per the process  
                described above. 

              d)    Requires a prospective member of an appeal panel to  







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                submit an appropriate disclosure form, signed under  
                penalty of perjury, to the agency declaring that he/she  
                does not violate the conflict of interest criteria.  
                Requires copies of these forms to be provided to the  
                institution making the appeal. 

           1) Expands the scope of the crime of perjury thereby imposing a  
             state-mandated local program and specifies, that no  
             reimbursement is required by this act pursuant the California  
             Constitution because the only costs that may be incurred by a  
             local agency or school district will be incurred because this  
             act creates a new crime or infraction, eliminates a crime or  
             infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime or infraction,  
             or changes the definition of a crime or infraction, as  
             specified.

           2) Specifies that the article is only applicable to accrediting  
             procedures regarding institutions located in California. 

           3) States legislative intent that the provisions of this bill  
             be implemented in manner that comply with federal law.    

           4) Includes a severability clause. 

           5) Defines various terms for the purpose of this bill.

           6) Makes a variety of legislative findings and declarations  
             regarding the scope and responsibility of the community  
             college accrediting agency. 

          Comments
          
          1)Need for the bill. According to the author, California has a  
            flawed community college accreditation process and given the  
            significant role an accreditor has in the success of  
            California's community colleges it is incumbent upon the state  
            to ensure that the accreditation process is fair, objective,  
            and transparent. The author further notes that the United  
            States Department of Education (USDE), the California State  
            Auditor and a California Superior Court have cited a number of  
            deficiencies in the processes and determinations of the ACCJC.  
            This bill seeks to establish processes under which the  
            community college accreditation agency should operate. 








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          2)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.  

            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. The National Advisory Committee on  
            Institutional Quality and Integrity advises the USDE on  
            whether accrediting entities' standards are sufficiently  
            rigorous and effective in their application to ensure quality  
            of the education. To meet that standard, accrediting entities  
            must demonstrate compliance with all the criteria for  
            recognition. 

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

            The ACCJC bylaws govern, among other areas, commission  
            meetings, responsibilities of commissioners, and the appeal  
            process for institutions appealing a denial or termination of  
            accreditation.  The 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.

          3)Accreditation of California community colleges.  After an  
            initial accreditation, colleges must have their accreditation  
            reaffirmed every six years.  This process includes a  
            self-study, a site visit by a team of peers, a recommendation  
            by the visiting team and an action by the ACCJC.  In addition  
            to these core components, colleges must submit a midterm  
            report every three years and annual progress reports.  The  
            college/district may also have to submit follow-up reports and  
            host visits as required by the Commission.  There are three  







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            levels of sanction prior to termination of accreditation:   
            Warning, Probation, and Show Cause.  Follow-up reports and  
            accreditation visits are required to retain full  
            accreditation.

            Many California community colleges have faced various levels  
            of accreditation sanctions.  Most recently, the sanctions  
            imposed on City College of San Francisco have drawn attention  
            to ACCJC and its accreditation process.  The heightened  
            attention lead to an audit by the California State Auditor,  
            who on June 26, 2014, issued a report on CCC Accreditation.   
            This audit report provided both a review of the ACCJC and the  
            accreditation process in general, as well as a more in-depth  
            examination of recent events related to City College of San  
            Francisco.  The report raised some concerns of the ACCJC and  
            the accreditation process and made a series of recommendations  
            to address the identified concerns. 

            After the release of the State Auditor's report, the  
            Chancellor's Office reconvened its Accreditation Task Force  
            consisting of community college stakeholders.  The  
            Accreditation Task Force is charged with providing input  
            through a report to the Chancellor's Office regarding the  
            accreditation process, including addressing the State  
            Auditor's recommendations. The Accreditation Task Force held  
            its final meeting at the end of May and recently finalized its  
            final report. The recommendations from the taskforce may help  
            shed light on issues and present potential recommendations for  
            future legislative review and action. 

          4)Unintended consequences? This bill proposes a number of  
            statutory requirements on the make-up of accreditation  
            visiting teams, public meeting procedures, maintenance of  
            accreditation review documents, due process and appeals,  
            policies and procedures.  As previously indicated, accrediting  
            agencies are private membership-based non-profit organizations  
            recognized by the USDE.  While these agencies provide  
            accreditation of public institutions, they are not themselves  
            public entities. The ability of the state to enforce  
            statutorily imposed requirements is limited as accrediting  
            agencies could simply choose not to provide accreditation of  
            community colleges. 

            This bill makes its provisions applicable only to accrediting  







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            procedures for institutions located in California.  Federal  
            regulations (34 CFR Section 602.18) require accreditors to be  
            consistent in applying standards to all of its member  
            institutions and to make decisions regarding accreditation on  
            the basis of the agency's published standards. Arguably, the  
            provisions in this bill could be perceived as giving CCC  
            greater influence over accreditation decisions than other  
            colleges in the accreditor's membership.

            Federal regulations (34 CFR Section 602.14) also require  
            accrediting agencies to be separate and independent of other  
            organizations, including groups within its membership. The  
            provisions in this bill may raise concerns regarding the  
            ability of the accrediting commission to independently and  
            effectively conduct its work.

            As noted in a recent letter to ACCJC, the USDE expresses  
            "serious concerns" regarding the ability of an accrediting  
            agency to enforce its standards effectively, as required by  
            the USDE's recognition criteria.  It indicates that the  
            timeline established in this bill prior to making a decision  
            appears to interfere with an accrediting agency's ability to  
            act swiftly in taking enforcement action.  Federal regulations  
            require that if the accrediting agency's review of an  
            institution is not in compliance their standards, the agency  
            must immediately initiate adverse action against the  
            institution or program.  This bill requires that the  
            accrediting agency operate by policies that are consistent  
            with the federal criteria for recognition of an accrediting  
            agency.  The USDE indicates that only it can interpret and  
            apply its recognition criteria. 

          NOTE:  See Senate Education Committee analysis for full  
          discussion.

          FISCAL EFFECT:   Appropriation:    No          Fiscal  
          Com.:YesLocal:   Yes


          According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, there is no  
          direct and certain cost to the state:


          1)Potential costs to the extent fees are increased by the ACCJC  







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            to modify systems to conform to this bill.  Though community  
            colleges pay these fees, they are not reimbursable pursuant to  
            state mandate law.  Instead, increases in fees could put  
            pressure on colleges' budgets which are largely funded by  
            Proposition 98 General Fund.


          2)CCC student eligibility for state and federal financial aid  
            could potentially be compromised to the extent the USDE does  
            not recognize the ACCJC due to this bill's provisions that may  
            conflict with federal accrediting agency recognition  
            requirements.  This could create a significant General Fund  
            cost pressure to backfill any loss in funding.




          SUPPORT:   (Verified9/4/15)


          Bay Area Council 
          California Community College Independents
          California Federation of Teachers 
          California Labor Federation
          California School Employees Association 
          California Teachers Association 
          Faculty Association of California Community Colleges
          Golden Gate Restaurant Association 
          State Building and Construction Trades Council of California
          State Center Federation of Teachers


          OPPOSITION:   (Verified9/4/15)


          Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
          Association of California Community College Administrators  
          Community College League of California
          MTI College
          North Orange County Community College District

          ASSEMBLY FLOOR:  61-18, 6/4/15
          AYES:  Achadjian, Alejo, Bloom, Bonilla, Bonta, Brown, Burke,  
            Calderon, Campos, Chang, Chau, Chiu, Chu, Cooley, Cooper,  







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            Dababneh, Daly, Dodd, Eggman, Frazier, Beth Gaines, Cristina  
            Garcia, Eduardo Garcia, Gatto, Gipson, Gomez, Gonzalez,  
            Gordon, Gray, Roger Hernández, Holden, Irwin, Jones,  
            Jones-Sawyer, Levine, Linder, Lopez, Low, Maienschein, Mayes,  
            McCarty, Medina, Mullin, Nazarian, O'Donnell, Patterson,  
            Perea, Quirk, Rendon, Ridley-Thomas, Rodriguez, Salas,  
            Santiago, Mark Stone, Thurmond, Ting, Wagner, Weber, Williams,  
            Wood, Atkins
          NOES:  Travis Allen, Baker, Bigelow, Brough, Chávez, Dahle,  
            Gallagher, Grove, Hadley, Harper, Lackey, Mathis, Melendez,  
            Obernolte, Olsen, Steinorth, Waldron, Wilk
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Kim

          Prepared by:Olgalilia Ramirez / ED. / (916) 651-4105
          9/9/15 13:06:34


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