California claims to have tightened up its charter school law, but huge loopholes remain. For example, state money goes to charters that offer religious education to home school students, as well as to private businesses.

Patrick O’Donnell, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, thinks that oversight is needed.

Private businesses and religious organizations have been getting public school dollars through charter schools that allow home-schooling parents to use state funds to pay for certain services for their children — a practice some lawmakers want to rein in.

Parents in certain home school charters get as much as $2,600 a year, money that has gone to Disneyland, religious educators, private businesses and others who provide educational, enrichment and recreational services for children.

“It was never the intent of the state legislature to pass dollars through online charter schools to private vendors or religious organizations,” said Assembly Education Committee Chair Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, in an interview. “This highlights a bigger issue that we’ve been grappling with in Sacramento for many years … that the charter school law, when it was originally written, was wide open.”

Another state legislator, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, says she plans to bring forward a bill in the new year that would require state oversight and rules for charter school vendors.

She expects the bill will have guidelines about what kinds of vendors would be allowed to receive public school funds. She said her bill was partly inspired by The San Diego Union-Tribune’s reporting on home school charters.

It’s important “to make sure we are allowing (charter schools) to have the freedom that they were given, without it being abused and without it turning into a system where we’re privatizing education and taking advantage of loopholes,” Garcia said during an interview.

“We keep going to the fact that there hasn’t been enough oversight as to how charter schools are using the dollars,” she said. “I think we’re seeing through this reporting that there’s a lot of blurred lines, and we need a lot more transparency and a lot more accountability.”

Legislators can reasonably anticipate that the powerful, well-funded California Charter Schools Association will fight relentlessly against any regulation, oversight, transparency, or accountability.