Key court decisions this week pave path for district-charter reforms

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September 22, 2011 We are pleased to report on two favorable legal decisions this week, signaling new opportunities for California's charter schools and the school districts who partner with them to enact local reform. In 2009, the Los Angeles Unified School District board passed Public School Choice (PSC), an unprecedented initiative to reform the operation of new schools and turn around the lowest performing schools in the district. United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) has filed various legal actions related to this LAUSD reform effort.

PSC allows non-district school operators - like charter schools, teacher teams, and community groups - the opportunity to run these schools. About a dozen new schools are now being run by charter schools through this process. Also under PSC, Green Dot was selected to operate a chronically low-performing school, Clay Middle School.

United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) v. LAUSD (Clay/Jordan)

On Sept. 19, a Los Angeles trial court ruled that teacher signatures are not required for Green Dot's charter schools to operate at the former campuses of LAUSD's chronically low performing Clay MS and Jordan HS. In the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) v. LAUSD (Clay/Jordan) case, the judge denied UTLA's claim that the "start-up" charters were invalid because the schools are actually conversions that did not meet the teacher signature requirement. LAUSD awarded the charter at Clay as part of its innovative PSC program, and at Jordan as a reconstitution authorized by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The court upheld the school district's actions under the Charter School Act, NCLB and several CA laws intended to make the state eligible for the federal Race To The Top competition. The trial court noted that these laws were not "promulgated with a purpose of protecting teacher rights," and that the school district cannot "sit by and do nothing." UTLA has already announced its intent to appeal the decision. We will keep you updated on the progress of the case.

Alfaro, UTLA v. LAUSD

On Sept. 16, the CA Court of Appeals for the 2nd District issued an unpublished decision finding that the Charter Schools Act allowed LAUSD to award several of its newly built school sites to charter school operators for the 2010-11 school year without teacher signatures. In the Alfaro, UTLA v. LAUSD case, the appellate court rejected UTLA's argument that because one of the purposes of building the new sites included a goal of relieving overcrowding, the relieved schools should be considered partially converted under the Charter Schools Act. The court majority found that because the new school sites were not "existing" district schools, no conversion took place, and teacher signatures were not required. We will keep you updated as to whether UTLA seeks review at the CA Supreme Court.

CCSA's Charter Schools Legal Defense Fund (LDF) has been actively monitoring these cases and supporting the efforts of attorneys working on these matters.