October 28, 2011:
For Immediate Release
Contact: Christine Schneider, Larson Communications
Appeals Court finds District Offer-which excluded from consideration over one million square feet of facilities space-does not comply
Los Altos, CA - Marking one of the most significant legal decisions affecting charter schools in California, the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth District yesterday unanimously overturned a lower court's ruling on Proposition 39. The decision clarified the "reasonably equivalent" standards for school districts that are required by law to provide charter schools equal facilities to those of district public schools. The ruling, which favors Bullis Charter School (Bullis), states, "the (Los Altos School) District offer of facilities for the 2009-10 school year did not comply with Proposition 39 or its implementing regulations."
Proposition 39, passed into law in 2000, states that, "public school facilities should be shared fairly and equally among all public school pupils, including those in charter schools."
According to yesterday's unanimous and published decision, the Court of Appeal found that, "The District, in its facilities offer here, excluded from consideration over one million square feet of collective non-classroom space of the comparison group schools." The decision went on to add that, "The District's methodology of ignoring space-sharing arrangements offered to Bullis in performing the reasonable equivalence analysis is the antithesis of a school district's Proposition 39 obligation ―to give the same degree of consideration to the needs of charter school students as it does to the students in district-run schools."
"We are pleased with the appeals court's unanimous decision," said Ken Moore, Bullis Charter School Board Chair. "The court found that the district acted 'arbitrarily' and failed to count over one million square feet of facilities space. All we want is for families who choose the charter school to have facilities that are equivalent to what all students in the district legally deserve. With this facilities decision final and hopefully behind us, it is our desire to work in partnership with the district to ensure that all students are treated equitably."
"This decision will bolster our statewide efforts to fulfill the promise of Proposition 39," said Jed Wallace, President and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association. "By finding that the district failed to make a good faith attempt to comply with the law, the court affirms that charter school students are entitled to reasonably equivalent facilities. We appreciate Bullis' efforts to advance the cause."
"This is a powerful opinion," said Morrison & Foerster partner Arturo Gonzalez, who tried the case on behalf of Bullis. "School districts in California do not have the right to ignore the law with unfair allocations of space and facilities. As the court noted, school facilities must be 'shared fairly' with charter schools."
The Court of Appeal also ruled that, "The lower court should have granted mandamus and declaratory relief making an affirmative finding that the District acted arbitrarily by failing to apply the proper legal standards in its facilities offer to Bullis, in violation of Proposition 39. Accordingly, we will reverse the judgment."
After years of being denied reasonably equivalent facilities, Bullis Charter School filed a petition for relief with the lower court in 2009. The lower court ruled against Bullis shortly thereafter, prompting Bullis to appeal the ruling.
About Bullis Charter School
Bullis Charter School is a K-8 public charter school serving the Los Altos School District (LASD) community. The charter school was founded in 2003 by LASD parents who were determined to have a high-quality public school option for their children following the closure of their local public school. Currently serving more than 450 students, Bullis is the top-performing public charter elementary school in California. Bullis equips its students with the skills needed to compete in a 21st century global environment, including Mandarin language instruction, leadership training and a focus on engineering and technology.
About the California Charter Schools Association
The California Charter Schools Association is the membership and professional organization serving 912 charter public schools and more than 365,000 students in the state of California. The Vision of the California Charter Schools Association is to usher in a new era in public education so all students attend independent, innovative, accountable schools of choice. The Mission of the California Charter Schools Association is to influence the legislative and policy environments, leverage collective advocacy, and provide resources to support our members in developing and operating high quality, charter schools reflective of California's student population. For more information, please visit www.calcharters.org.