CCSA v. Los Angeles Unified School District, et al.

Summary

On May 24, 2010, CCSA filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) because of LAUSD's continual failure to comply with Proposition 39 and promises it made to CCSA in an April 2008 Settlement Agreement.

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Case Overview

California Supreme Court Finds LAUSD Violated Proposition 39

In April 2015, the California Supreme Court ruled that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has been violating the regulations implementing Prop. 39. The court stated that LAUSD's use of district-wide "norming ratios", or student-teacher ratios, in determining the number of classrooms to offer to charter schools did not comply with the implementing regulations which require districts to use the facilities inventory at comparison group schools. The court's decision affirmed CCSA's position that the district's methodology was not legal or fair, and potentially denied classrooms to charter public school students. The decision requires LAUSD to make changes to its Prop 39 process in order to ensure that its method of allocating classrooms to charter schools is lawful.

The decision stems from a motion CCSA filed in the trial court on May 17, 2012, which focused on the unlawful manner in which LAUSD determined the number of classrooms offered to charter schools under Prop. 39. CCSA asserted that, if LAUSD were compelled to make the correct calculations pursuant to the Prop. 39 regulations, the number of classrooms offered to charter schools would increase significantly. The trial court granted CCSA's motion on June 27, 2012.

LAUSD filed an appeal of the trial court's decision, and, on December 7, 2012, in an unpublished decision, the Court of Appeal reversed and found that LAUSD has the discretion to use district-wide norming ratios. After receiving significant school district support for publication, on January 4, 2013, the Court of Appeal ordered that the decision be published, and established precedent for other school districts and trial courts around the state concerning Prop. 39 and "norming ratios."

Given the precedential effect, CCSA sought review of the decision by the California Supreme Court. In support of CCSA's request, many charter school supporters, including about 20 charter schools, the Pacific Legal Foundation, Parent Revolution, and prominent charter school leaders filed letters urging the CA Supreme Court to grant our request. The court unanimously granted CCSA's Petition for Review on April 17, 2013, and heard oral argument on February 4, 2015.

After the Supreme Court ruling the case was remanded back to the trial court. CCSA monitored LAUSD's Prop. 39 compliance in the Prop. 39 cycle that followed and determined that LAUSD had not complied with its legal obligations outlined by the Supreme Court. In particular, CCSA determined that LAUSD had continued to improperly exclude classrooms from its school inventories to inflate the classroom to student ratios required under Prop. 39.

In order to fully evaluate LAUSD's compliance, CCSA requested site visits to confirm classroom inventories, as well as depositions of the principals at those sites. LAUSD opposed CCSA's right to conduct discovery forcing CCSA to bring a motion in court to conduct that discovery. In the meantime, LAUSD filed another demurrer challenging CCSA's standing to state a case. The Court overruled LAUSD's demurrer finding the CCSA had stated a case.

Ultimately in December 2016, CCSA filed a Motion for Summary Adjudication seeking a declaration that LAUSD failed to comply with Prop. 39 law and the Supreme Court's decision in the case. The Court denied that motion on the basis that there were triable issues of fact that necessitated additional testimony and evidence before the Court could make a decision.

Starting in January 2018, CCSA began to see the start of some promising changes at LAUSD. The LAUSD Board authorized the creation of a new platform for public access to District data through its "Open Data Resolution" which lays the foundation for better informed policy-making on all issues that affect students and teachers, including facilities access. At the end of March, the LAUSD Advisory Taskforce, comprised of local civic and education leaders, released a report that recommended that the District hire real estate experts by April 2018 to take a careful inventory of District property and create a comprehensive recommendation for their use by September 2018. Under the circumstances, in April, 2018, CCSA decided to move the case to conclusion with entry of a judgment and dismissal.

Trial Court Action filed in May 2010

This case began on May 24, 2010, when CCSA filed a lawsuit against LAUSD based on its failures to comply with Proposition 39 and a Settlement Agreement between CCSA and LAUSD dated April 2008. The lawsuit centers on LAUSD's continued failures to share public school space with all public school students in the LAUSD area, despite clear and unequivocal obligations under the law.

For the 2010-2011 school year, 81 charter schools in LAUSD applied for Prop 39 facilities and yet LAUSD issued only 45 letters purporting to be final offers of facilities. Not one of those purported offers complied with the law.

In December 2010, CCSA obtained a court order against LAUSD, requiring LAUSD to offer facilities to every charter school in accordance with law and the terms of the April 2008 Settlement Agreement. After the court's order LAUSD almost doubled the number of its facilities offers to charter schools. Those offers were improved but still failed to comply with law in many respects. For example, the offers failed to specify charter schools' share of non-classroom and specialized classroom spaces at the LAUSD campuses, as required by law. This failure prompted CCSA to obtain another court order in May 2011, obligating LAUSD to supplement its facilities offers with more specific information about the non-classroom space and specialized teaching space offered to charter schools.

On June 22, 2011, CCSA and LAUSD agreed to stay the litigation under a court order. The stay allowed CCSA the ability to continue monitoring LAUSD's Prop. 39 compliance, while requiring LAUSD to comply with the prior court orders. If LAUSD failed to abide by the terms of the court orders, CCSA had the ability to immediately seek redress before the Court, which retained jurisdiction over the case.

After monitoring LAUSD's compliance for the 2012-13 Prop. 39 school year, CCSA determined that LAUSD had continued to violate Prop. 39, and CCSA filed a motion on May 17, 2012, to enforce the court orders. Among other things, CCSA asserted that LAUSD's practice of using its "norming ratios" to calculate the number of classrooms allocated to charter schools is illegal, and that these miscalculations have resulted in LAUSD allocating fewer classrooms to charter schools than they were entitled to under the law. At a hearing in June 2012, the court agreed with CCSA, ordering LAUSD to comply with the Prop. 39 Implementing Regulations when calculating classrooms, and not use LAUSD's norming ratios. Further, the court ordered LAUSD to issue revised offers to many schools for the 2012-13 school year. It is this court order that LAUSD appealed resulting in the case before the California Supreme Court described above.

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