Friday, December 7, 2012
Court Says L.A. Unified School District is Fair to Charter Schools
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Unified School District’s method of assigning classroom space to charter schools is valid, this district’s Court of Appeal has held.
Div. Five found Wednesday, in an unpublished opinion by assigned Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Edward Ferns, that Judge Terry Green erred when he found that the school district’s use of “norming ratios” violated California law.
Under Proposition 39, public school districts are required to share their facilities fairly among all public school pupils, including those in charter schools.
In 2007 the California Charter Schools Association filed two lawsuits alleging that the school district failed to provide facilities to charter schools in the same classroom to average daily attendance ratio as those provided to other students in the district.
Those claims were resolved by a settlement agreement that was to remain in effect until June 30, 2013.
In 2010, however, the CCSA filed a complaint for breach of that agreement and asked for specific performance, a permanent injunction, and other equitable relief to enforce its terms.
The trial judge ordered the school district to extend facilities offers to charter schools for the 2011-2012 school that submitted legally sufficient facilities requests and to make those and future offers Proposition 39 – compliant during the term of the settlement agreement. It denied CCSA’s requests for injunctive and declaratory relief.
The issuance of that order was not challenged by the school district.
Last year the CCSA again filed a motion to enforce the trial court’s order with regard to its facilities offers for the 2012-2013 school year. The CCSA alleged that the district’s use of norming ratios violated subdivision (b)(1) of the regulations, which provides, in part:
“Facilities made available by a school district to a charter school shall be provided in the same ratio of teaching stations (classrooms) to ADA as those provided to students in the school district attending companion group schools.”
The CCSA argued that the number of classrooms the school district was required to take into account was those it is required to include in the list of classroom inventory it prepares pursuant to California Code of Regulations, title 2, Sec. 1859.31.
Under those regulations, classroom inventory is to include, among other things, classrooms contracted for but not yet built, and classrooms included in a closed school.
Green agreed with the CCSA and ordered that the school district not use norming ratios to reduce the number of classrooms offered to charter schools in the future.
But Ferns, in his opinion for the Court of Appeal. said that the regulations are properly read as requiring the school district to provide its facilities to charter schools in a manner that will promote Proposition 39’s intent of public school facilities being shared fairly among all pupils, including those in charter schools.
“We make a distinction between facilities that are ‘provided’ and ‘classroom inventory.’ … If we were to adopt the analysis proffered by CCSA, it may well have anomalous results. For example, the District would have to count classrooms that have been contracted for but not yet built and classrooms at closed school sites.“
“The District’s use of norming ratios is consistent with the intent of Proposition 39. It furthers the goal of ensuring that public school facilities are being shared fairly among all public school pupils and that the charter school’s in-district students are being accommodated in conditions reasonably equivalent to those in which those students would be accommodated if they were attending other public schools of the District. “
Presiding Justice Paul Turner and Justice Sandy Kriegler concurred in the opinion.
The LAUSD was represented on appeal by David M. Huff, Marley S. Fox, Joanna Braynin of Orbach, Huff & Suarez, and Mark S. Fall.
The California Charter Schools Association was represented by James L. Arnone, Winston P. Stromberg, and Michele L. Leonelli of Latham and Watkins and by in-house lawyers Ricardo J. Soto, Julie Ashby Umansky and Phillipa L. Altmann.
The case is California Charter Schools Association v. Los Angeles Unified School District; B242601.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company