from the csba/California School Boards association website
March 2008 - Rejecting objections from CSBA and other members of the education community, the Office of Administrative Law has approved new Proposition 39 rules that significantly diminish school districts’ discretion over how facilities are allocated.
The new rules, issued Feb. 28, are contained in amendments to the state Board of Education’s Proposition 39 Title 5 regulations. Proposition 39 was the ballot measure approved by voters in 2000 that, in part, requires districts to provide local charter schools with facilities that are “sufficient” and “reasonably equivalent” to other buildings, classrooms or facilities in the district.
“Many of these proposed revisions are detrimental to school districts,” said Stephanie Farland, senior policy consultant for CSBA. “For example, the district will not be able to move a charter school from a district site without approval of the charter itself or a state board waiver. We believe that the state board has exceeded its authority in such a way that districts no longer have the necessary discretion to act in the best interests of their students. “
The regulations will take effect on March 29, so they will apply to facilities requests received by districts this fall for the 2009-10 school year.
CSBA has led opposition to the new rules on grounds that the regulations go well beyond what Proposition 39 requires and will create hardships for school districts and students. CSBA’s Education Legal Alliance is contemplating legal action against the state board this spring to overturn the regulations.
Farland outlined some of the most troubling and potentially serious requirements in the new rules. They include:
· Reasonably equivalent furnishings and equipment: Proposition 39 specifies that charter school facilities provided by districts must be “furnished and equipped.” The amended regulations state that a facility will be “furnished and equipped” if it includes “reasonably equivalent” furnishings and equipment such as are found in the comparison group schools. However, the new regulations greatly expand the definition of “furnished and equipped” to include furniture, vehicles, machinery, motion picture film, videotape and intangible assets such as major software programs. The regulations allow a district to exclude furnishings and equipment paid for through non-district resources, such as donations or PTA-sponsored items, when determining reasonable equivalence, but the new language goes well beyond what was contemplated when Proposition 39 took effect and is contradictory to other sections of the regulations that specify that districts are not required to use general funds for facilities given to charters.
· Conversion charters: Conversion charter schools are those charters that are created when a district school’s parents or faculty submit a petition to convert a district-operated school into a charter school or those charters created as a remedy for poor performance under the state’s Public School Accountability Act. Currently, Proposition 39 provides that a school district may not move a charter school to another site “unnecessarily”. Under the new regulations, a conversion charter school will be entitled to remain at the school site where it was operating before it became a charter school as long as the charter school requests the site from the school district on an annual basis. In addition, the amended regulations will require a school district to obtain a waiver from the SBE in order to move a conversion charter away from the previous location. Given that the regulations were approved by the SBE, it is unlikely that many such waivers would be approved.
· Revised timelines for responding to facilities requests: The amended regulations shorten the time period for districts to respond to charter school facilities requests and impose deadlines for each action to be taken during consideration of the request. In addition, the amendments impose consequences for missed deadlines. Charter schools must submit facilities requests for the next school year to districts by Nov. 1. Districts then have until Dec. 1 to review a charter school’s enrollment projections, express any objections in writing, and calculate the enrollment projections that the district considers reasonable. If the district misses this deadline, the charter school’s enrollment projections stand and the district must base its facilities offer on those projections. For districts that receive more than one facilities request, or for districts with small administrative office staffs, the new timeline will require significant staff time and resources.
· Reporting of a school district’s facilities charges: Under Proposition 39, a district can charge a charter school a pro-rata share of its facilities costs. When the new regulations go into effect, each charter school will have to report to the California Department of Education, by June 1 of each school year, the charge per square foot it is paying in the current fiscal year. School districts will have an opportunity to provide explanatory information regarding the square-foot charge. The CDE will post the per-square-foot amounts and any explanatory information on its Web site.
The regulations contain many other troublesome changes, Farland said. CSBA will provide continuing updates on any litigation its Education Legal Alliance undertakes, and will issue advisories to school districts as needed. Please contact Farland for additional information at 800-266-3382.
A copy of the regulations can be found @ http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/lr/rr/charterschools.asp