In Los Angeles International Charter High School v. Los Angeles Unified School District (October 11, 2012, B231164) __Cal.App.4th__, the Los Angeles International Charter High School (“Charter School”) challenged a trial court’s determination that the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”) complied with Proposition 39 (“Prop 39”) obligations and asserted that LAUSD abused its discretion by not offering facilities at the specific high school where the Charter School desired to place its program.
The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s decision and found that LAUSD did not abuse its discretion and that it had satisfied its Prop 39 obligations. In making this determination, the Court looked closely at the language of Education Code 47614, subdivision (b), and recognized that Prop 39 only obligates school districts to “make reasonable efforts to provide a charter school with facilities near to where the charter school wishes to locate.” Thus, the Court reasoned, Prop 39 does not require a school district to “place a charter school in the exact location the charter school desires.”
The Court also recognized the language in Title 5, section 11969.2 of the California Code of Regulations, setting forth the obligations of school districts when evaluating and accommodating a charter school’s request for facilities. This regulation requires a school district to exercise a balance between and give the same consideration to both students in its own district-operated programs and the in-district students attending the charter school. In this case, accommodating the Charter School at the specific school site where it desired to be placed would have required LAUSD to move large numbers of students in the middle of the academic year to other classes or to other schools; such a move, the Court reasoned, would disrupt the students' instructional program, putting the students in the district-operated program at a potential academic disadvantage. It would have also forced several teachers to vacate their classrooms and move from room to room each day, leading to disruption of lesson-continuity and interference with essential classroom facilities such as bulletin boards and storage space. Based on these circumstances, the Court concluded that the charter school was not entitled to facilities at the specific location it desired since doing so would have required LAUSD to disregard the needs of its own students in favor of the charter school’s students.
While the Court confirmed that Prop 39 does not require districts to place charter schools in the exact location the charter school desires to locate, it also made clear that the implementing regulations do not provide specific guidance as to what constitutes “reasonable efforts” on the part of a district in the placement process. Rather, each scenario requires a balancing test, a consideration of all relevant factors and “a rational connection between those factors and [a district’s] Prop 39 offer.” Thus, school districts are advised to take care to consider the needs of both student populations and the impact on both school communities when determining whether a charter school’s specific location request can be accommodated.
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F3 NewsFlash prepared by Melanie A. Petersen and William F. Schuetz
Melanie is a partner in the F3 San Diego office.
William is an associate in the F3 Sacramento office.
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