Last week, the California Court of Appeals for the Sixth District handed down Bullis Charter School vs. Los Altos School District (October 27, 2011). This case vindicated the rights of charter schools to facilities reasonably equivalent to other schools in the district. This is an important decision for California parents and students as it will ensure charter students are not jipped and/or do not get stuck in small, run down facilities, with inadequate space for sports, child care, and students.
In Bullis, which interpreted the Charter Schools Act (California Education Code 47600) and Proposition 39 (Education Code 47614), the Court of Appeals granted Bullis' request for a court order to be issued to the Los Altos School District. Essentially, the court ordered the District to provide a "complete and fair facilities offer to Bullis from which it could be determined that 'reasonably equivalent' facilities were provided" (page 46 of attached decision- for you lawyer's out there, this is not the official citation).
The District had provided an offer of facilities to Bullis which was lacking in the following ways (among others):
1) It selected the wrong schools to compare,
2) Did not compare total site size,
3) Did not consider three categories of space: teaching, non-teaching and specialized space in its calculations,
4) Contained flawed and/or missing information on size/square footage.
In laymen's terms, the District's proposal basically compared apples to peanuts, and used flawed figures and percentages to make it appear that Bullis was getting an equivalent space, when they were not. In fact, in the proposal, Bullis was required to share outdoor space, had no classroom for its seventh graders, and did not have child care space allotted, among other things.
This decision is a student victory and will be a boon to charter school students who have sometimes been stuck in facilities which were smaller or in worse condition than local public schools. This is good for all students in California whose school choice will be even better than before.
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814