October 6, 2008
Court Rules in Favor of Los Angeles Charter School in Lawsuit Against LAUSD
New West Charter Middle School (New West), a high-performing charter public school in West Los Angeles, was victorious in a court ruling Friday, when the court ruled that Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) had violated the law after the school district denied New West students their legal right to classrooms under Proposition 39. The court ordered LAUSD to provide space for 285 students at Fairfax High School or another acceptable school facility in conformity with Proposition 39 by October 8, 2008.
The court ruling marked the fourth consecutive legal win for charter schools under Proposition 39, a state ballot measure passed by California voters in 2000, which requires school districts to share public school facilities fairly among all public school students, including those attending charter schools. This includes a lawsuit filed against LAUSD in May 2007 by the California Charter Schools Association, Green Dot Public Schools and PUC Schools - a lawsuit that was settled by all parties this April.Since the settlement, LAUSD has denied, rescinded or made unacceptable offers to 30 of the 44 (68 percent) facilities requests made by its charter schools, actions that may place the district in violation of its own facilities agreement established with its charter schools.
"The California Charter Schools Association is pleased that the court once again enforced the law by requiring LAUSD to provide New West with classrooms," said Peter Thorp, Interim CEO of the California Charter Schools Association. "LAUSD needs to take its legal obligations more seriously. The courts won't allow school districts like LAUSD to play games with charter schools while shortchanging their own students."
The ruling in New West's favor came after a several-month dispute which began in April, when LAUSD originally approved a facility request by New West and several other charter schools before illegally withdrawing its offer. The court ordered LAUSD to immediately provide New West with 13 classrooms to house 285 students at Fairfax High School or at another location acceptable to New West. Attorney Gregory Moser of Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP represented New West in the case.
"This is a tremendous win not only for New West's students, but for all of California's charter school students," said Sharon Weir, Executive Director and Principal of New West Charter Middle School. "This victory sends a clear message to LAUSD that they must make adequate facilities available to our students. It is unfortunate that the district would rather fight than find positive solutions. Our students deserve safe, adequate and publicly-funded classrooms and school districts must comply with the law."
When a charter school is not offered district facilities, it is forced to use money intended for teacher salaries and instructional supplies to pay for classrooms. Last year, New West was forced to spend over $300,000 on obtaining a school facility.
Despite its facilities challenges, New West managed to successfully achieve an Academic Performance Index (API) score of 867, making it the highest-performing public middle school in LAUSD. New West was also one of the most improved public middle schools in LAUSD, having jumped 32 API points during the last school year. This is the third consecutive year the school has scored over 800, which is the goal for all public schools in the state.
About the California Charter Schools Association
The California Charter Schools Association is the membership and professional organization serving the more than 700 charter public schools that serve over a quarter million charter school students in the state of California. The Association's mission is to improve student achievement by supporting and expanding California's quality charter public school movement. www.myschool.org