Court of Appeal Holds District’s Use of Existing Class-Size Ratios When Offering Charter School Facilities is Consistent with the Intent of Proposition 39

January 2013

The Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”) followed the intent of Proposition 39 by using “norming ratios” to assign classroom space to charter schools, a California Court of Appeal has determined.  

LAUSD’s method of allocating classroom space to charter schools under Prop 39 uses a formula that evaluates space “actually used” by students in the Districts comparison schools.  That approach meets Proposition 39’s requirement of “public school facilities being shared fairly among all pupils, including those in charter schools,” the appellate court found in California Charter Schools Assn. v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist.  __Cal.Rptr. 3d__, 2012 WL 6789081 (Cal. App. 2 Dist.).

The Court of Appeal’s unanimous decision overturned a trial court’s conclusion that LAUSD’s use of Board-approved “norming ratios” to determine the number of teaching stations provided to charter schools violated California law.

The California Charter Schools Association (“CCSA”) successfully argued at trial that California Code of Regulations, title 5, section 11969.3  mandated that, when calculating the ratio, LAUSD should have accounted for “all of the classrooms it included in its classroom inventory.”  The regulation requires that facilities made available by a district to a charter school must be provided in the same ratio of teaching stations (classrooms) to average daily attendance as those provided to students attending district comparison group schools. 

The Court of Appeal instead drew a distinction between facilities that are actually “provided” and those that are listed as “classroom inventory.”  It observed that adopting CCSA’s analysis would produce “anomalous results” because the district would have to count classrooms in its calculations that it had contracted for but not yet built, as well as classrooms at closed school sites. 

The court said counting classrooms actually provided to students furthered the legislative goal of accommodating a charter school’s in-district students in conditions reasonably equivalent to those they would receive if they attended other public schools in the district.

While this decision is fact-specific, the court’s broad analysis of the policy and intent of Proposition 39 provides districts with the argument that when allocating classroom space to charter schools, they can rely on a count of classrooms currently being used.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, please call one of our six offices.

 F3 NewsFlash prepared by Melanie Petersen and John Norlin.
Melanie Petersen is a partner in the F3 San Diego office.
John Norlin is Special Counsel in the F3 San Diego office.

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