Appeals Court finds District Offer–which excluded from consideration over one million square feet of facilities space–does not comply
Los Altos (October 28, 2011) – Marking one of the most significant legal decisions affecting charter schools in California, the California Court of Appeals 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.”
“This is a powerful opinion,” Morrison & Foerster partner Arturo J. González, who tried the case on behalf of Bullis, said. “School districts in California do not have the right to ignore the law with unfair allocations of space and facilities. As the court makes clear, school facilities must be ‘shared fairly’ with charter schools.”
According to yesterday’s unanimous and published decision, the Court of Appeals 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. Its past practice notwithstanding, the District failed even to consider total site size; had it done so, using its own methodology, its offer would have contained some 35 percent greater acreage.”
"We are pleased with the appeals court’s unanimous decision,” said Ken Moore, President of the Bullis Charter School Board of Directors. “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.”
The Court of Appeals 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.
To view the Sixth Appellate District of the California Court of Appeals decision in its entirety, visit: www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/H035195.PDF
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.