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California Charter Schools Assn. v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist.

Supreme Court of California

April 9, 2015

CALIFORNIA CHARTER SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Defendants and Appellants

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Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC438336, Terry A. Green, Judge. Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Five, No. B242601.

David R. Holmquist, Mark S. Fall, Nathan A. Reierson; Orbach, Huff & Suarez, David M. Huff, Steven Graff Levine, Marley S. Fox and Joanna Braynin for Defendants and Appellants.

Burke, Williams & Sorenson and John R. Yeh for California School Boards Association Education Legal Alliance and California State PTA as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Appellants.

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Drociak, Yeager & Associates and Kenneth C. Yeager for Los Angeles NAACP as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Appellants.

Andra Donovan for San Diego Unified School District as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Appellants.

Jacqueline P. Minor and Michael L. Smith for Oakland Unified School District as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Appellants.

Ricardo J. Soto, Julie Ashby Umansky, Phillipa L. Altmann; Latham & Watkins, James L. Arnone, Winston P. Stromberg, Vanessa C. Wu and Michele L. Leonelli for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Law Office of Michael F. Keeley and Michael Keeley for Excellent Education Development as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, Mark G. Kisicki and Erin L. Brinkman for Rocketship Education as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, John C. Lemmo and Gregory V. Moser for Bullis Charter School as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

Meriem L. Hubbard and Joshua P. Thompson for Pacific Legal Foundation as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, Gregory V. Moser and Adriana R. Sanchez for National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

Law Offices of Young, Minney, and Corr, Paul C. Minney and Kathleen M. Ebert for Reed Hastings as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

Irell & Manella, David A. Schwars and Zachary T. Elsea for Richard J. Riordan as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

Opinion by Liu, J., with Cantil-Sakauye, C. J., Werdegar, Chin, Corrigan, Cué llar, and Kruger, JJ., concurring.

OPINION

[185 Cal.Rptr.3d 558] [345 P.3d 913] LIU, J.

In 2000, California voters enacted Proposition 39, which requires school districts to share their facilities with charter schools so that charter school students have access to facilities " reasonably equivalent" to those

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available to other public school students. (Ed. Code, § 47614, subd. (b), as amended by Prop. 39, as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 7, 2000).) In 2002, the State Board of Education (Board) issued regulations on how to implement this requirement. For more than a decade, the Board's regulations and the underlying mandate of Proposition 39 have been the subject of considerable litigation. (See, e.g., Bullis Charter School v. Los Altos School Dist. (2011) 200 Cal.App.4th 1022 [134 Cal.Rptr.3d 133] ( Bullis ); New West Charter Middle School v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist. (2010) 187 Cal.App.4th 831 [114 Cal.Rptr.3d 504]; Ridgecrest Charter School v. Sierra Sands Unified School Dist. (2005) 130 Cal.App.4th 986 [30 Cal.Rptr.3d 648]; Environmental Charter High School v. Centinela Valley Union High School Dist. (2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 139 [18 Cal.Rptr.3d 417]; Sequoia Union High School Dist. v. Aurora Charter High School (2003) 112 Cal.App.4th 185 [5 Cal.Rptr.3d 86].)

[185 Cal.Rptr.3d 559] This case, an action for declaratory relief, concerns the meaning of a Board regulation that governs the allocation of classrooms to charter schools. The regulation requires a school district to count the number of classrooms in certain " comparison group schools" and to divide the average daily attendance (ADA) of students at those schools by the number of classrooms. The resulting ADA/classroom ratio dictates how many classrooms the district must provide to a charter school that requests facilities.

In allocating classrooms to charter schools, the Los Angeles Unified School District (District) uses what it calls " norming ratios," which purport to establish throughout the District a uniform student/teacher ratio in a given grade level. The District contends that its use of these districtwide ratios, rather than ratios developed from counting classrooms in comparison group schools, satisfies the Board's regulation and provides reasonably equivalent facilities to charter schools. The District further contends that the classrooms to be counted are only those that are, in the words of the applicable regulation, " provided to" K-12 students, and not classrooms that are dedicated to other uses, such as preschool or adult education.

The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) contends that the District violates the applicable regulation by using districtwide norming ratios rather than counting [345 P.3d 914] classrooms in comparison group schools to determine the allocation of classroom facilities. CCSA also contends that under the applicable regulation, the classroom count used to determine the ADA/classroom ratio must include some classrooms dedicated to preschool instruction or adult education as well as some classrooms used for noninstructional purposes. According to CCSA, the District's norming ratios improperly reduce the number of classrooms to which charter schools are entitled.

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