Anderson USD v Shasta Secondary Home School Case Overview

Summary

This case involves a challenge to a nonclassroom-based charter school to operate resource centers outside of the school district in which it is authorized but within the same county.

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This case involves a challenge to a nonclassroom-based charter school to operate resource centers outside of the school district in which it is authorized but within the same county.

In August 2013, the Anderson Unified School District ("District") filed a complaint against the Shasta Secondary Home School ("Shasta"), a nonclassroom-based charter school authorized by the Shasta union High School District, alleging that Shasta did not have legal authority to open a resource center within the District's boundaries because of the geographic site restrictions found in the Charter Schools Act, Education Code sections 47605 and 47605.1. These sections require that charters operate schoolsites in the geographic boundaries of the school district but allow nonclassroom-based schools to establish "resource center, meeting space, or other satellite facility located" in a county adjacent to that in which the charter school is authorized. Since the District was in the same county as Shasta's authorizing district, the District argued that its resource center location was not allowed. Alternatively, the District argued that the resource center was a "schoolsite."

The trial court disagreed with the District's arguments. First, the court found that Shasta's site met the statutory definition of a resource center. Then, the court reasoned that the Legislature intended to distinguish a resource center, meeting space, or other satellite facility from a site or schoolsite, and that the lack of a specific restriction on in-county resource centers indicates a Legislative intent not to restrict such locations. Further, the court found that it would be an absurd result to allow charter schools to locate resource centers in adjacent counties, but not within the authorizing district's county and outside that district's boundaries.

In 2015, the District appealed, and the appellate court reversed the decision on October 17, 2016. The court found that no exception to the geographic site restrictions allows a charter school to operate a resource center outside the geographic boundaries of the authorizing school district but within the same county. Although not at issue in the case, the analysis confirms that resource centers identified in the charter and located either in the authorizing district's boundaries or in adjacent counties are allowed.

The court refused to consider the public policy considerations presented in this case, though finding them "intriguing and possibly persuasive." For example, CCSA and other amici curiae argued that the Legislature's goal in enacting AB 1994 was to increase oversight and competition. Instead, the court stated that "[c]onsiderations of public policy do not permit us to ignore the plain language of the statute."

Because the court's interpretation reverses a widespread legal interpretation and common practice accepted amongst most authorizers and the California Department of Education for the past decade, Shasta sought review of the decision at the California Supreme Court. But on January 18, 2017, it denied the request. Since that time, many nonclassroom-based schools, through their authorizing school districts, have sought waivers from the statutes at issue in the decision, in order to delay implementation of this new interpretation of the law, to allow for the appropriate accommodations of students served at these resource centers.

CCSA has been engaged with the case since it was filed, due to the potential threat it has posed to the flexibility allowed for nonclassroom-based programs. CCSA filed a declaration at the trial court and amicus curiae brief at the appellate court, and a letter in support of review at the California Supreme Court. We will continue to work with charter schools who have been affected by the new interpretation of the law, and will work to ensure the Legislature's public policy objectives with respect to charter schools are fulfilled.

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