CCSA Files Lawsuit Against West Contra Costa Unified School District Seeking Parcel Tax Funding Equity for Charter Public School Students

May 6, 2014

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Contact: Dannie Tillman
(213) 924-2439
dtillman@calcharters.org

(Sacramento, CA) - Today, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) filed a lawsuit in the Contra Costa County Superior Court alleging that the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) failed to provide students attending charter public schools in the district with voter approved funding under Measure G. Passed by 75% of voters in November 2012, Measure G is a parcel tax measure that maintains quality education for students in WCCUSD through local funding.

The purpose of Measure G funds is to protect core academics, attract and retain quality teachers, provide lower class sizes for the youngest of children, prepare students for college and the workforce, and improve safety on and around school campuses, so as to improve and preserve the quality of educational opportunities afforded to public school students within the WCCUSD. Despite the general purpose of the parcel tax to improve the quality of education for all public school students in WCCUSD, the WCCUSD excludes charter public schools and their students from the benefits of proceeds generated by local parcel taxes.

"By excluding students attending charter public schools from parcel tax revenue, WCCUSD is creating two classes of students in the public education system, is violating their fundamental right to education, and is also denying them equal protection as guaranteed by the California Constitution," said CCSA President and CEO Jed Wallace.

Additionally, WCCUSD's decision to deny parcel tax proceeds unlawfully discriminates against African American and Latino students (as well as socio-economically disadvantaged children) attending charter schools in WCCUSD in violation of state laws. Of the five charter schools operating within WCCUSD during the 2012-13 school year, no school had less than 92% of its school enrollment composed of African American and Latino students. In addition, approximately 76% of students at those charter schools are socio-economically disadvantaged based on their eligibility for free and reduced price lunch.

CCSA seeks a legal finding from the California courts to declare that the WCCUSD's allocation of parcel tax proceeds as unconstitutional and discriminatory, and to order the WCCUSD to equally and equitably distribute its parcel tax revenue so as to benefit all students within the WCCUSD, including students that attend charter public schools.

CCSA attempted to resolve this issue with WCCUSD via meetings and in a formal letter, and yet district representatives responded unequivocally that the district would not share parcel tax proceeds with charter schools and their students.

The lack of parcel tax funding contributes to disparities in educational opportunities afforded public school students served by charter schools in WCCUSD as compared to traditional schools, including a lack of instructional materials, supplies (including computers) and basic educational amenities and services such as libraries and labs, higher teacher to student ratios, reduced program offerings, and less instructional support (e.g., instructional assistant, counselors), etc.

Charter public school students are also entitled to the same level and quality of educational services identified in Measure G as traditional public school students, including protection of their core academics, qualified teachers, preparation for college and the workforce, smaller class sizes for the youngest children, classroom computers and technology, improved safety, after-school programs that keep them away from gangs and drugs, science laboratories, materials and activities, libraries, and all of the other essentials that the parcel taxes help to provide to public school students in district-run schools.

California courts have declared that charter schools are part of California's public school system and students who attend charter schools are public school students. In addition, the California Legislature has also declared in law that charter schools are schools within the public school system, and are entitled to full and fair funding.

Charter public schools are unable to generate parcel tax measures and are dependent on the local district when it comes to assessing parcel tax dollars. Children attending traditional WCCUSD schools and charter public schools are entitled to the benefits of educational funding so as to provide them with a free public education in accordance with California constitutional mandates.

This lawsuit is not just about WCCUSD but it is to protect all students attending California charter public schools from such discriminatory practices regarding parcel tax measures that can drastically curtail their educational success and future opportunities.

About the California Charter Schools Association
The California Charter Schools Association is the membership and professional organization serving 1,130 charter public schools and more than 519,000 students in the state of California. The Vision of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) is to empower parents and educators to unleash a new era of innovation within public education so that highly autonomous and accountable schools of choice provide quality learning opportunities for all California students. The Mission of CCSA is to enable our members to increase the number of students attending quality charter schools in California as quickly as possible by securing policy wins supportive of charter schools and providing the supports necessary to open and expand quality charter schools. For more information, please visit www.calcharters.org/.