Charters would get more time to make facility moves

Charters would get more time to make facility moves

(Calif.) In an effort to make charter school facilities ruled illegal in a recent court case compliant, state officials are recommending the unauthorized uses be allowed to temporarily remain open under a state waiver process.

A ruling by the Third Appellate District in November, which was upheld by the state Supreme Court in January, found that geographic restrictions in state law governing where charter schools can be located also apply to non-classroom based charters and any physical facilities they might establish.

Staff at the California Department of Education said in a memo this week that, because of the potential impact on students, the state board of education should consider granting relief to any of the non-classroom based charters now in conflict with the courts using the board’s power to waive state law.

“The CDE finds that there are nonclassroom-based charter schools that may have relied upon and operated under an interpretation of the statutes that govern geographic and site restrictions that are in conflict with the Third District’s decision,” department staff said in a memo to the board.

“In order to minimize disruption to pupils and educational programs, a waiver for the limited purpose of providing charter schools operating noncompliant resource centers time to comply with the Third District decision should be considered by the SBE,” the CDE said.

At issue are state laws that limit where a charter school can be located and if non-classroom based charters–those that provide most of their educational services online–are bound by those restrictions.

The question was raised when the Shasta Union High School District based in Redding gave permission to Shasta Secondary Home School, an internet-based charter school, to establish a resource center that was to be placed inside the boundaries of another district, the Anderson UHSD.

Anderson officials complained about the center but Shasta officials argued that state law allowed non-classroom based schools to have resource centers or meeting space even if it is located outside the boundaries of the authorizing district.

The Third District Court of Appeal sided with Anderson and found that charter schools are prohibited from operating facilities outside of the geographical boundaries of their authorizing school district, subject to limited exceptions–which the Shasta charter did not qualify for.

To help achieve a smooth transition into compliance with the ruling, the CDE has proposed the state board adopted a new waiver policy that would be in place until Nov. 10, 2017.

As proposed, the policy would allow web-based charters that have unauthorized facilities allowed to continue operations for a limited period under the following conditions:

  • The charter school’s governing body must approve a transition plan that details how the charter school’s resource center will come into compliance with the Anderson court decision.
  • Pursuant to EC Section 33051(b), the waiver shall be for a period of not more than two years less two days, and shall not be retroactive.
  • The charter school must submit the transition plan to the charter school’s authorizer within 30 days after approval of the waiver.
  • And, if the authorizer has not visited the resource center pursuant to EC Section 47604.32(a)(2), require the authorizer to visit the resource center within a reasonable time frame.