Court Of Appeal Okays School District’s Use Of Norming Ratios To Assign Classroom Space To Charter Schools

A charter schools association brought a lawsuit against a school district and alleged the district violated Proposition 39 by using norming ratios to assign classroom space to charter schools.   The court of appeal held that the school district’s “use of norming ratios is consistent with the intent of Proposition 39.”  (California Charter Schools Association v. Los Angeles Unified School District (--- Cal.Rptr.3d ----,  Cal.App. 2 Dist., December 5, 2012).

Facts

In May 2007, the California Charter Schools Association (“CCSA”) filed two lawsuits alleging the Los Angeles Unified School District (“District”) failed to comply with Proposition 39 when it extended facilities offers to charter schools.  The District and CCSA entered into a settlement agreement.

In May 2010, CCSA filed a complaint against the District for breach of the settlement agreement and violation of Proposition 39.  The trial court entered an order directing the “District to extend facilities offers to all charter schools that submitted legally sufficient facilities requests for the 2011-2012 school year and to make Proposition 39 compliant facilities offers to all CCSA member charter schools that submit legally sufficient facilities offers for future school years until the term of the settlement agreement ends on June 30, 2013.”   In May 2012, CCSA filed a motion to enforce the trial court’s order with regard to the facilities offers made by the District for the 2012-13 school year.  CCSA claimed the final facilities offers made by the District for the 2012-2013 school year did not provide charter schools facilities “in the same ratio of teaching stations (classrooms) to ADA [Average Daily Attendance] as those provided to students in the school district attending companion group schools, as required by Regulation Section 11969.3, subdivision (b)(1).”  

CCSA objected to the District’s use of norming ratios.  The District asserted that it provided classrooms to students of charter schools in the same ratio as it provided classrooms to students attending schools operated by the District.  The District claimed “that the use of norming ratios was an appropriate tool by which the District ensured an equal ratio of ADA to classrooms in a charter school and its District comparison group schools.”  The trial court held that the District’s use of norming ratios violated California Code of Regulations, title 5, Section 11969.3, subdivision (b)(1).  However, the court of appeal reversed the trial court and held that the District’s use of norming ratios did not violate Proposition 39.

Decision

The intent of Proposition 39, codified at Education Code Section 47614, is “that public school facilities should be shared fairly among all public school pupils, including those in charter schools.”  Section 47614, subdivision b, provides, “Each school district shall make available, to each charter school operating in the school district, facilities sufficient for the charter school to accommodate all of the charter school’s in-district students in conditions reasonably equivalent to those in which the students would be accommodated if they were attending other public schools of the district.”

California Code of Regulations, title 5, Section 11969.3, subdivision (b)(1) provides, “‘Facilities made available by a school district to a charter school shall be provided in the same ratio of teaching stations (classrooms) to ADA as those provided to students in the school district attending comparison group schools’ rather than the gross classrooms in existence.”  The court of appeal read this regulation “as requiring the District to provide its facilities to charter schools in a manner that will promote the intent of Proposition 39 of public school facilities being shared fairly among all pupils, including those in charter schools.” 

The court made “a distinction between facilities that are ‘provided’ and ‘classroom inventory.’”  Regulation 11969.3, subdivision (b)(1) requires that a school district must provide charter schools with facilities in the same ratio as those provided to the students of the school district.  The court held that the “District’s use of norming ratios is consistent with the intent of Proposition 39” because “[i]t furthers the goal of ensuring that public school facilities are being shared fairly among all public school pupils and that the charter school’s in-district students are being accommodated in conditions reasonably equivalent to those in which those students would be accommodated if they were attending other public schools of the District.” 

The court of appeal reversed the decision of trial court and held that the District did not violate Regulation 11969.3, subdivision (b)(1).  This decision was filed on December 5, 2012 and was subsequently published on January 4, 2013.

What This Means To You

Proposition 39 requires school districts to “make available, to each charter school operating in the school district, facilities sufficient for the charter school to accommodate all of the charter school’s in-district students in conditions reasonably equivalent to those in which the students would be accommodated if they were attending other public schools of the district.”  (Education Code Section 47614(a).)  The court of appeal affirmed the LAUSD’s use of norming ratios as a method of assigning classroom space to charter schools.  The District provided classroom to charter schools in the same ratio of students to classrooms that it provided to students attending its own District schools.  Districts are not required to calculate facilities allocation based on all classrooms they have in existence, such as classrooms not yet built or classrooms at school sites that have been closed.

Questions

If you have any questions concerning the content of this Legal Alert, please contact the following from our office, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.

Michelle L. Cannon or Meghan Covert Russell | 916.321.4500

Topics:  Appeals, Charter Schools, Proposition 39, Reversal, School Districts

Published In: Civil Procedure Updates, Education Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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