Rocketship Education v. Mt. Diablo Unified School District
This case involves a challenge to a school district's scope of review and authority to reduce a charter school's projection of average daily attendance ("ADA") in the school's request for district facilities under Proposition 39 ("Prop. 39").
In November 2016, Rocketship Education ("Rocketship") made a request to the Mt. Diablo Unfied School District ("District") pursuant to Prop. 39, projecting 367.65 in-District ADA for the 2017-2018 school year for the Rocketship Futuro Academy. Rocketship supported the projection with Intent to Re/enroll Forms from current students and "meaningfully interested" students, along with a roster of current students and ADA reports. In an effort to ostensibly verify the projection, the District called parents informing them that signing an Intent to Re/Enroll form meant that their child was forfeiting their right to attend a District school and asking them to confirm during the call that they are currently interested in enrolling at the charter school. Based upon the information received in this verification effort, the District reduced the Rocketship's projection by the number of students whose parents who changed their mind during the intimidating call, and the number of students they could not verify because they claimed the forms were ineligible, contained incorrect phone numbers, lacked required information, or contained incorrect information, among other things.
Rocketship replied, pursuant to the regulations, by January 2 with a comprehensive response to the District's concerns, and proposed a modified projection of 285 in-District ADA. It calculated this number after reviewing its original supporting documentation and determining that it provided the District with 288 legible and fully completed Intent to Re/Enroll for grade-eligible in-District students with its request, and Rocketship provided 25 new enrollment applications that it had received from new in-District students for the 2017-2018 school year.
Given that the District stated that it refused to provide a preliminary proposal for anything more than 135 in-District ADA, on January 30, Rocketship filed a lawsuit seeking, among other things, to compel the District to make an offer for 285 ADA, among other things. The trial court agreed with Rocketship that the District's counter-projection was "wholly invalid" and an abuse of discretion, and ordered the District to accept Rocketship's January 2 projection.
In determining what scope of review a school district has when reviewing a charter school's ADA projection, the trial court found that the review is limited and that the regulations "do not authorize the district to blithely disregard the school's methodology and documentation by conducting its own wholly independent counter-survey." Further, the court found that "the District went far beyond the scope of such permissible review. The District launched a forensic attack on Rocketship's documentation with the obvious intent and predictable effect of minimizing the amount of classroom space the District would offer Rocketship."
CCSA commends Rocketship's efforts to hold a school district accountable for its intimidation and scare tactics. The trial court decision speaks directly to the hostility many charter schools face throughout the state when seeking to use school district facilities for the students they serve. CCSA will continue to monitor the case to ensure that the purpose of Prop. 39 is fulfilled to ensure that public school facilities are shared fairly among all public school students, including those in charter schools.
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