By Josh Richman Oakland Tribune
5/24/08 - The State Board of Education's decision to authorize a statewide public-school charter that bypasses local officials' input wasn't an abuse of authority, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled this week in dismissing a lawsuit.
The California School Board Association's Education Legal Alliance sued the state board in October, claiming the board had overstepped its authority in January 2007 by approving Aspire Public Schools' petition to create "statewide benefit" charter schools; Aspire has opened schools in Stockton and Los Angeles under that charter.
A 1994 law allowing such a charter — issued without local approval or oversight — requires the state board to make a formal finding, based on information provided by the applicant, that it will provide "instructional services of statewide benefit" that can't be provided by a charter operating only in one district or county. The Education Legal Alliance — later joined by the Association of California School Administrators, the California Teachers Association and the Stockton Unified School District — claimed the state board had been derelict in its duty in granting the approval without such proof.
But the state board — and Aspire, as a party of interest to the case — argued Aspire's petition did provide enough basis for approval and the board's action was a proper exercise of its authority. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Burr agreed this week, finding state law and regulations "provide substantial discretion" to the state board in determining whether to approve a state charter school.
Education Legal Alliance director Richard Hamilton said the ruling is "unfortunate" and will be appealed. He said it "will open the door and encourage charters to bypass local school districts and county offices of education in an attempt to avoid local oversight." "There should be particular concern as to whether the SBE is prepared to provide the necessary oversight for this new expansion of charter schools," Hamilton said.
Aspire co-founder and CEO Don Shalvey said he's "certainly pleased" by the ruling "because it just means that much more opportunity for the kids that we serve: predominately first-generation collegegoers" from the state's lower-performing school districts.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the decision, saying it will "allow for many more charter schools in California, especially for students in high-risk areas of our state that could benefit greatly from access to new avenues of learning."
- LA Times Story:
ALAMEDA COUNTY: Charter schools win court ruling
5/24/08 - A Superior Court judge has affirmed the right of high-quality charter schools to open new campuses without first seeking approval from local school districts. The Thursday decision opened the door for charter schools in California districts that have barred them entirely, even though such blanket resistance to charters is illegal.
Although L.A. Unified has more charters than any district in the nation, some nearby district don't have any.
The suit was brought by the California School Boards Assn. and the California Teachers Assn., among others. They had challenged regulations of the state Board of Education, which voted to make Aspire Public Schools a "statewide benefit charter." This designation can also be extended to other charter organizations.
The lawsuit contended that the state board's action infringed on local control, and the right of school districts to govern schools within their jurisdiction. -- Howard Blume