By Barbara Jones, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/16gyyNM
8/21/13, 6:14 PM PDT :: More than 12 years after California voters decreed that independent charters should have access to public school facilities, Los Angeles Unified remains embroiled in a legal battle over how to share its campus space with charters that request it.
The district and the California Charter Schools Association are at odds over how to implement Proposition 39, which was approved by voters in 2000. Their dispute has now reached the state Supreme Court, which will determine the most fair and equitable method for districts to allocate classrooms to charters.
In documents filed with the high court on Wednesday, LAUSD said it wants to make space available to charters using the same student-to-teacher ratios it uses for its own classrooms: 24-to-1 for grades K-3, for instance, and 30-to-1 for high school.
But CCSA wants to use a formula that divides school enrollment by the total number of classrooms — even those used as a library, parent center or for storage — a method that both sides agree would result in more space for charters.
Los Angeles Unified officials say charter students would get “materially better and unequal conditions” under the CCSA plan, while the charter group says its kids would get “short shrift” if the district method is used.
A Superior Court ruling on CCSA’s 2010 lawsuit found in favor of the charter group, but an appellate court overturned that decision and backed the district’s formula. The charter group appealed, and the Supreme Court agreed to decide the issue.
The debate over the co-location of traditional schools and charters has grown increasingly heated as the independent campuses have become more and more popular. There now are 249 charters operating in LAUSD, and nearly one-third share a campus with a traditional school. CCSA officials say nearly all of the state’s Prop. 39 campuses are located within Los Angeles Unified.
The issue took on another dimension Tuesday when LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer launched an effort to persuade lawmakers to set co-location guidelines that deal specifically with the district. He also wants legislation to regulate how charters can recruit students on school grounds and to explore filing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of LAUSD students on co-located campuses.
“If you take some of the emotion out of it, this is a very classic regulatory dilemma,” Zimmer said Wednesday. “Our elected policy-makers — whether in LAUSD or Sacramento — have an obligation to approach this situation in a reasonable and equitable and balanced way. We have to balance the rights of families of children in charters with those who have chosen an LAUSD school.”
But CCSA says the district has been violating Prop. 39 by failing to provide space or making offers for classrooms that are miles away from where charters want to operate. There also have been disputes within co-located campuses, with complaints about the sharing of parking lots and playgrounds.
“Charters are offered lower-quality classrooms, like bungalows or nonpermanent space,” said Ricardo Soto, CCSA’s senior vice president for legal advocacy. “Some don’t have access to the kitchen or playgrounds, or the kids are having to use restrooms that are far from their classrooms.
“Charters appreciate having space at the facility, but we’re not getting the quality.”