Lack of adequate space and facilities for charters can limit their enrollment, and force kids onto waiting lists. Every year, dozens of charter schools in California request facilities from their districts in order to offer space to incoming students, and accommodate growth; many of these schools are left in limbo, not knowing if the district will comply with the law and offer them space to teach their students.
Many charters are forced to spend a disproportionate amount of their budgets to rent facilities, even though they're public schools. This is money that would be better spent in the classroom.
Proposition 39 was written to ensure that all public school students share equally in district facilities. The bargain made when Prop. 39 was passed by California voters in 2000 was to reduce the threshold for the state or a local school district to pass a facilities bond from two-thirds to fifty-five percent, a considerably easier standard to meet. In exchange, charter school students were to be given equal access to district facilities, if charters are able to meet certain eligibility requirements.
The law serves to ensure "that public school facilities should be shared fairly among all public school pupils, including those in charter schools." Prop. 39 requires school districts to make "reasonably equivalent" facilities available to charter schools upon request.
The principle behind Prop. 39 is one of equity and fairness for all public school students, irrespective of whether they attend public district schools or public charter schools in their communities. Charter school students are public school students. Prop. 39 represents the tangible, pragmatic embodiment of that principle in the most publicly visible sign of a successful school - the building.
Prior to the passage of Prop. 39, charter law permitted charter schools to use, at no cost, school district facilities which the district was not using for instructional or administrative purposes or which were historically used as rental properties. Districts sporadically complied with this permissive law and charter schools' access to adequate facilities became one of their biggest challenges.
In 2003, Prop. 39 imposed a mandatory duty on school districts to provide their charter school students facilities that are "reasonably equivalent" to those used by non-charter students within the district. The charter school facilities must be:
- Contiguous (located together, not spread across campus or multiple sites)
- Similarly furnished and equipped.
- Located near the area in which the charter wishes to locate
In order to be eligible for facilities under Prop. 39, charter schools must provide "reasonable projections" of their average daily attendance (ADA) of at least 80 in-district students. In-district students are those students who could attend a district school if they had not chosen to enroll in the charter school.
Cost for Use of District Facilities
School districts are allowed to charge charter school for use of district facilities under Prop. 39. Prop. 39 provides two alternatives for the district to charge charter schools annually for the use of facilities: a pro rata share charge or an increased oversight fee.
Making a Request
The regulations implementing Prop. 39 set forth specific requirements for making a facilities request to a district. In addition to meeting the eligibility requirements, there are a variety of dates which must be met for a charter school to preserve its right to district facilities. Operating schools and schools planning to open must submit facilities requests to their district by November 1.
How CCSA Helps
CCSA has spent the last year engaged in policy work at the state-level to add greater clarity to Prop. 39. This work culminated with a revised set of regulations adopted by the State Board of Education to add specificity to the condition of district facilities charter schools are entitled to under Prop. 39, and the criteria and timelines of the Prop. 39 facilities request and offer process. CCSA will continue to seek ways in which charter schools can increase accessibility to obtain Prop. 39 facilities statewide.
CCSA has stepped up availability of resources and support for Association members across the state, as well as offering heightened support to schools in targeted localities.
Lawsuit Against LAUSD
On May 24, 2010, CCSA filed a lawsuit against LAUSD based on LAUSD's failures to comply with Proposition 39 and a Settlement Agreement between CCSA and LAUSD dated April 2008. The lawsuit centers on LAUSD's continued failures to share public school space with all public school students in the LAUSD area, despite clear and unequivocal obligations under the law. Learn more about the lawsuit.
In December 2010, CCSA obtained a court order against LAUSD, requiring LAUSD to offer facilities to every charter school in accordance with law and the terms of the April 2008 Settlement Agreement. For the 2011-2012 Proposition 39 facilities request cycle which was in progress at the time of the court's order, LAUSD almost doubled the number of its facilities offers to charter schools. Those offers were improved but still failed to comply with law in some respects. For example, the offers still failed to specify charter schools' share of non-classroom and specialized classroom spaces at the LAUSD campuses, as required by law. This failure prompted CCSA to obtain another court order in May 2011, obligating LAUSD to supplement its facilities offers with more specific information about the non-classroom space and specialized teaching space offered to charter schools.
On June 22, 2011, CCSA and LAUSD agreed to a court ordered stay of the litigation. Under the terms of the new court order, CCSA will continue to monitor LAUSD's Prop. 39 compliance, among other things. If LAUSD fails to abide by the terms of the court orders, which include an obligation on LAUSD's part to provide member charter schools with Prop. 39 facilities, CCSA will have the ability to immediately seek redress before the Court, which will be retaining jurisdiction over the case.
Unfortunately, after monitoring LAUSD's compliance for the 2012-13 Prop. 39 cycle, CCSA has determined that LAUSD has continued to violate Prop. 39, and CCSA filed a motion on May 17, 2012, to enforce the court orders. Among other things, CCSA asserted that LAUSD's practice of using its "norming ratios" to calculate the number of classrooms allocated to charter schools is illegal, and that these miscalculations have resulted in LAUSD allocating fewer classrooms to charter schools than they are entitled to under the law. At a hearing in June 2012, the court agreed with CCSA, ordering LAUSD to comply with the Prop. 39 Implementing Regulations when calculating classrooms, and not use LAUSD's norming ratios. Further, the court ordered LAUSD to issue revised offers to many schools for the 2012-13 school year. However, LAUSD prevailed in its appeal of that order, so it is likely that LAUSD's allocations of classrooms through Prop. 39 will continue to be based on "norming ratios." On January 29, 2013 the 2nd District Appellate Court denied CCSA's Petition for Rehearing on this issue.
On February 13, 2013 CCSA filed a petition for review with the California Supreme Court, urging the court to decide whether a local government body may disregard statewide regulations when the local body decides, in its own discretion, that the statewide regulation is not consistent with the local body's view of the "purpose" of the statute under which the statewide regulations were promulgated.