Docstoc

Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint

Document Sample
Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint Powered By Docstoc
					         1    SUE ANN SALMON EVANS, State Bar No. 151562
              CLARISSA R. CANADY, State Bar No. 194473
         2    WILLIAM B. TUNICK, State Bar No. 245481
              Dannis Woliver Kelley
         3    115 Pine Avenue, Suite 500
              Long Beach, CA 90802
         4    Telephone: (562) 366-8500
              Facsimile: (562) 366-8505
         5
              Attorneys for Petitioners/Plaintiffs ALUM ROCK UNION
         6    ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT; EVERGREEN
              SCHOOL DISTRICT; FRANKLIN-MCKINLEY SCHOOL
         7    DISTRICT; and MOUNT PLEASANT ELEMENTARY
              SCHOOL DISTRICT
         8
                               SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
         9
                                       FOR THE COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA
        10

        11
              ALUM ROCK UNION ELEMENTARY              CASE NO.
        12    SCHOOL DISTRICT; EVERGREEN
              SCHOOL DISTRICT; FRANKLIN-              PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND
        13    MCKINLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT; AND           COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE AND
              MOUNT PLEASANT ELEMENTARY               DECLARATORY RELIEF
        14    SCHOOL DISTRICT,
                                                      (Pursuant to Code Civ. Proc., §§ 1085 & 1060)
        15                Petitioners/Plaintiffs,

        16          v.                                Trial:                None set

        17    SANTA CLARA COUNTY BOARD OF             Exempt from filing fees pursuant to Gov.
              EDUCATION; AND SANTA CLARA              Code, § 6103.
        18    COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION,

        19                Respondents/Defendants.

        20
              ROCKETSHIP EDUCATION,
        21
                          Real Party in Interest.
        22

        23

        24

        25

        26

        27

        28

                                                       1
SF 684628v2                       PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1              1.     Comes now Petitioners ALUM ROCK UNION ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

         2    DISTRICT; EVERGREEN SCHOOL DISTRICT; FRANKLIN-MCKINLEY SCHOOL

         3    DISTRICT; and MT. PLEASANT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT (“Districts”) and allege

         4    against Respondents SANTA CLARA COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION and SANTA

         5    CLARA COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION (“Respondents”) as follows:

         6                                                INTRODUCTION

         7              2.     The Constitution vests control and delivery of education at the most local level, the

         8    school district. A school district is a public organization authorized by the Legislature with a

         9    defined territory and subordinate to the general education laws of the State of California. School

        10    districts are governed by locally elected board members and are vested with various powers by the

        11    Legislature. These powers have been granted to school districts because of their unique

        12    instructional functions. Within its defined geographical area, a school district is required to

        13    educate all children of appropriate grade and age, provide all necessary classroom facilities,

        14    teachers and instructional materials. This structure allows local school districts, operating within the

        15    bounds of State law, to address the needs and concerns of their community.

        16              3.     In the abstract, charter schools do not alter this basic structure. While they are

        17    sanctioned to operate outside certain limitations of the Education Code, their existence is permitted

        18    because they must be approved and overseen by the public school system. When authorized in

        19    conformity with law, a charter school can perform an important role in the community, supplementing

        20    and complimenting the services offered by the school district.

        21              4.     Consistent with the constitutional focus on local control of education in California,

        22    charter schools are generally authorized under Education Code section 476051 which allows for school

        23    districts to approve and oversee charter schools. Section 47605 calls upon the educational expertise of

        24    local school districts to evaluate, among other things, whether the charter petition presents a sound

        25    educational program, whether petitioners are demonstrably likely to successfully implement the

        26    program, whether the charter petition sets forth a reasonably comprehensive description of the 16

        27    elements reflecting the educational and operational program of the proposed charter school, and

        28    1
                  All statutory references are to the Education Code unless otherwise noted.
                                                                   2
SF 684628v2                            PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1    whether the charter petitioner has a viable fiscal plan for the proposed school(s). (§ 47605, subd.

         2    (b)(5)(A)-(P), (g).) In implementing section 47605, school districts must be mindful of whether the

         3    charter petition meets the intent of the Legislature to “provide parents and pupils with expanded choices

         4    in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system” and are best

         5    positioned to do so in light of the keen knowledge of the existing programs offered within the local

         6    district by both charter schools and the local school district. (§ 47601, subd. (e).) School districts are

         7    also informed that “[i]n reviewing petitions for the establishment of charter schools pursuant to this

         8    section [47605], the chartering authority shall be guided by the intent of the Legislature that charter

         9    schools are and should become an integral part of the California educational system and that

        10    establishment of charter schools should be encouraged.” (§ 47605, subd. (b).)

        11            5.      Although in limited circumstances charter schools may be initially authorized by a

        12    county board of education (§ 47605.6) or the State Board of Education (§ 47605.8), such petitions must

        13    be denied unless there is a reason the charter school could not operate at the school district level – as

        14    case law holds, authorization of a charter under these sections is the exception, not the rule. (California

        15    School Boards Assoc. v. State Bd. of Educ. (2010) 186 Cal.App.4th 1298, 1319 [“CSBA v. SBE”].)

        16    Specifically, a county board of education may only approve a charter petition for a “countywide”

        17    charter school if it finds, among other things, that the services to be provided could not be provided as

        18    well by the charter school if authorized by a local school district and there is a reasonable justification

        19    for why the charter school could not be established by petition to a school district.

        20            6.      Prior to 2009, Rocketship Education (“Rocketship”) operated two charter schools

        21    within Santa Clara County. Both of these schools were school district based charter schools

        22    authorized under section 47605.

        23            7.      In 2009, Rocketship directly petitioned the Santa Clara County Board of Education

        24    (“SCCBOE”) for a countywide charter school pursuant to section 47605.6 to operate in five

        25    locations. This petition was granted. However, it is alleged upon information and belief that when

        26    Rocketship learned that it would only receive one “start-up grant,” i.e., Public Charter School

        27    Grant funds of up to $575,000, for this charter school, Rocketship returned to the SCCBOE to

        28    obtain separate approval of each location as an independent countywide charter school under

                                                                   3
SF 684628v2                            PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1    section 47605.6. Although Santa Clara County Office of Education (“SCCOE”) staff originally

         2    found that the petitions did not identify sufficient “countywide benefits” to legally allow

         3    authorization of the petitions, SCCBOE nonetheless approved these countywide charters in late

         4    2011.

         5            8.      While three of these petitions were pending, Rocketship again returned to the

         6    SCCBOE to seek authorization for an additional 20 countywide charter schools under section

         7    47605.6. These Rocketship charter petitions were given numerical identifiers “Rocketship 9”

         8    through “Rocketship 28.” These petitions identified the same “countywide benefit” factors

         9    presented in the earlier petitions and previously found insufficient by SCCOE staff. Again,

        10    notwithstanding this legal flaw, the SCCBOE granted all 20 countywide charter petitions in

        11    December 2011. These 20 charter schools are set to locate in Alum Rock Union Elementary

        12    School District, Campbell Union School District, Evergreen School District, Franklin-McKinley

        13    School District, Mt. Pleasant Elementary School District, Oak Grove School District, San Jose

        14    Unified School District, and Santa Clara Unified School District. None of these 20 charter schools

        15    are slated to begin operations until on or about August 2014.

        16            9.      Because the petitions to form 20 countywide charters failed to establish, among other

        17    things, that: 1) they provide services which could not be provided as well by the charter schools if

        18    authorized by a local school district; and 2) there is a reasonable justification for why the charter

        19    schools could not be established by petitions to a school district, the SCCBOE approval of the 20

        20    countywide charter petitions was in violation of law.

        21            10.     Nonetheless, the 25 Rocketship countywide charter schools now approved by the

        22    SCCBOE may locate and operate within the school districts’ boundaries in Santa Clara County without

        23    the consent or input of the local school district. The local school districts have had no opportunity to

        24    evaluate the educational program, the fiscal viability of the school, or consider whether the program

        25    provides for expanded school choice in light of what is offered through the local district and locally

        26    established charter schools as called for under section 47605. The local district communities and staff

        27    have had no opportunity to petition to their local district governing board on the question of whether

        28    they support the charter school in their community as provided for under section 47605. These

                                                                  4
SF 684628v2                            PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1    countywide charter schools are not overseen by the local school district or required to work with the

         2    local school district to ensure their services meet the Legislative intent to increase learning

         3    opportunities for all pupils. The actions of Respondents in granting these charter petitions are contrary

         4    to the Education Code and interfere with the rights and responsibilities of the local school districts and

         5    their recognized “sovereignty over public education” provided within their boundaries. (CSBA v. SBE,

         6    supra, 186 Cal.App.4th at 1308.)

         7            11.     Respondents’ actions in unlawfully authorizing countywide charter schools, serve to

         8    usurp the powers and oversight of local school districts, including the Districts, by creating a super-

         9    district of charter schools in Santa Clara County. However, as the courts have recognized, neither the

        10    SCCOE nor the SCCBOE has the unique educational task of mass education that a school district has.

        11    The actions of the SCCOE and SCCBOE are directly contrary to the Legislative intent and the statutory

        12    authority.

        13                                                 THE PARTIES

        14            12.     Petitioner/Plaintiff Alum Rock Union Elementary School District (“Alum Rock”) is,

        15    and at all times mentioned herein was, a public entity duly existing under and by virtue of the laws of

        16    the State of California and operating as a public school district providing educational services in the

        17    County of Santa Clara, California. Alum Rock has authorized two charter schools and has an

        18    additional five charters within its district boundaries. Four of the sites for the 20 proposed Charter

        19    Schools, designated Rocketship 9, 14, 19, and 24, are within the geographical boundaries of Alum

        20    Rock and are slated to open in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

        21            13.     Petitioner/Plaintiff Evergreen School District (“Evergreen”) is, and at all times

        22    mentioned herein was, a public entity duly existing under and by virtue of the laws of the State of

        23    California and operating as a public school district providing educational services in the County of

        24    Santa Clara, California. One of the sites for the 20 proposed Charter Schools, designated Rocketship

        25    10, is within the geographical boundaries of Evergreen and is slated to open in 2018.

        26            14.     Petitioner/Plaintiff Franklin-McKinley School District (“Franklin-McKinley”) is, and at

        27    all times mentioned herein was, a public entity duly existing under and by virtue of the laws of the State

        28    of California and operating as a public school district providing educational services in the County of

                                                                   5
SF 684628v2                            PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1    Santa Clara, California. Franklin-McKinley has authorized five charter schools, including two of Real

         2    Party’s existing charter schools, Rocketship Mosaic and Rocketship Spark. Three of the sites for the 20

         3    proposed Charter Schools, designated Rocketship 11, 15, and 21, are within the geographical

         4    boundaries of Franklin-McKinley and are slated to open in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

         5            15.     Petitioner/Plaintiff Mount Pleasant Elementary School District (“Mt. Pleasant”) is, and

         6    at all times mentioned herein was, a public entity duly existing under and by virtue of the laws of the

         7    State of California and operating as a public school district providing educational services in the

         8    County of Santa Clara, California. Mt. Pleasant has authorized a charter school within its district. One

         9    of the sites for the 20 proposed Charter Schools, designated Rocketship 25, is within the geographical

        10    boundaries of Mt. Pleasant and is slated to open in 2018.

        11            16.     Petitioners/Plaintiffs Alum Rock, Evergreen, Franklin-McKinley, and Mt. Pleasant may

        12    be referred to collectively as the “Petitioners” or “Districts.”

        13            17.     Respondent Santa Clara County Board of Education (“SCCBOE”) is, and at all times

        14    mentioned herein was, a public entity duly existing under and by virtue of the laws of the State of

        15    California.

        16            18.     Respondent Santa Clara County Office of Education (“SCCOE”) is, and at all times

        17    mentioned herein was, a public entity duly existing under and by virtue of the laws of the State of

        18    California.

        19            19.     Respondents SCCBOE and SCCOE may be referred to collectively as “Respondents.”

        20            20.     Real Party in Interest Rocketship Education (“Rocketship”) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit

        21    corporation incorporated under the laws of the State of California with its principal place of

        22    business in Palo Alto, California, which operates charter schools in several states. It operates eight

        23    charter schools in Santa Clara County and has received authorization to operate 20 additional

        24    countywide charter schools within Santa Clara County (“Charter Schools”).

        25                                        GENERAL ALLEGATIONS

        26                          Requirements For Approval Of Countywide Charter Schools

        27            21.     The California Constitution provides for the provision of public education through

        28    “a system of common schools.” (Cal. Const., art. IX, § 5.) At the local level, it specifies the

                                                                   6
SF 684628v2                            PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1    creation and organization of school districts. (Id., art. IX, § 14.) In short, “[u]nder the Constitution,

         2    the public schools themselves exist at the district level and are governed by the school districts.”

         3    (Mendoza v. State (2007) 149 Cal.App.4th 1034, 1041.) The Education Code builds upon this

         4    foundation, requiring that “[e]very school district shall be under the control of a board of school

         5    trustees or a board of education.” (§ 35010, subd. (a).)

         6            22.     The Constitution provides for “a system of common schools,” which includes charter

         7    schools, so long as those schools are properly authorized and overseen. Charter schools were first

         8    sanctioned in California by the Charter Schools Act of 1992 (“CSA”). The CSA contains a detailed set

         9    of procedures and requirements that govern every aspect of a charter school’s existence. “From how

        10    charter schools come into being, to who attends and who can teach, to how they are governed and

        11    structured, to funding, accountability and evaluation – the Legislature has plotted all aspects of their

        12    existence.” (Wilson v. State Bd. of Educ. (1999) 75 Cal.App.4th 1125, 1136.) In fact, it is this explicit

        13    statutory scheme and its strict requirements which make the CSA constitutional. (Id.)

        14            23.     In detailing how charter schools may come into existence, the CSA allows school

        15    districts to approve a charter petition and thereby authorize the operation of a charter school.

        16    (§ 47605.) Section 47605 calls upon the educational expertise of local school districts to evaluate,

        17    among other things, whether the charter petition presents a sound educational program, whether

        18    petitioners are demonstrably likely to successfully implement the program, whether the charter petition

        19    sets forth a reasonably comprehensive description of the 16 elements reflecting the educational and

        20    operational program of the proposed charter school, and whether the charter petitioner has a viable

        21    fiscal plan for the proposed school(s). (§ 47605, subd. (b)(5)(A)-(P), (g).) The governing board of the

        22    school district shall not deny a petition for the establishment of a charter school unless it makes written

        23    factual findings, specific to the particular petition, setting forth specific facts to support one or more of

        24    the following findings. (§ 47605, subd. (b).) Petitioners may appeal that decision to the local county

        25    board of education or the State Board of Education. (§ 47605, subd. (j).) The vast majority of the 1,100

        26    charter schools in the State were authorized by school districts through this process.

        27            24.     Charter schools are public schools that operate independently from local school districts

        28    but are subject to oversight. Before 2002, charter schools operated without geographic restrictions;

                                                                   7
SF 684628v2                            PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1    however, in 2002, after it came to light that several charter schools operating outside the boundaries of

         2    the entity that authorized the charter had accumulated debt and were involved in other irregularities, the

         3    Legislature amended the CSA to require that charter schools be located within the boundaries of the

         4    school district where they were chartered. (See, e.g., §§ 47605, subd. (a)(1), 47605.1). At the time the

         5    CSA was amended to localize authorization and oversight of charter schools, the Legislature amended

         6    the CSA to allow for “countywide” charter schools. (§ 47605.6 [Stat. 2002, ch. 1058].) This allowed

         7    charter school petitions to be filed directly with a county board of education to operate a charter school

         8    within that county, but the Legislature made clear that such charters were to be the exception and only

         9    approved upon specific findings essentially reflecting that the charter could not be operated as a charter

        10    school approved under section 47605. Specifically, the intent of this bill was to “help clarify a district’s

        11    sovereignty over public education provided within its boundaries and … enhance oversight of charter

        12    schools.” (CSBA v. SBE, supra, 186 Cal.App.4th at 1308, quotation omitted.)

        13            25.     While the 2002 amendments allowed for countywide charter schools, “the statutory

        14    scheme reflects an intent to promote district chartered schools and local oversight while allowing for

        15    limited exceptions.” (CSBA v. SBE, supra, 186 Cal.App.4th at 1320.) Section 47605.6 is one such

        16    exception, permitting the establishment of a countywide charter school “only if the county board of

        17    education finds, in addition to the other requirements of this section, that the educational services to be

        18    provided by the charter school will offer services to a pupil population that will benefit from those

        19    services and that cannot be served as well by a charter school that operates in only one school district in

        20    the county.” (§ 47605.6, subd. (a)(1).) Moreover, the statute makes it incumbent upon the charter

        21    petitioner to affirmatively show “reasonable justification for why it could not be established by petition

        22    to a school district pursuant to Section 47605.” (§ 47605.6, subd. (b).) If these conditions are not met,

        23    a county board of education is prohibited from authorizing a countywide charter school.

        24            26.     As the CSBA v. SBE Court stated, the standard applicable to countywide charter schools

        25    is in stark contrast to the Legislature’s directives regarding petitions submitted to a school district under

        26    section 47605. Section 47605, subdivision (b), directs school districts: “In reviewing petitions for the

        27    establishment of charter schools pursuant to this section, the chartering authority shall be guided by the

        28    intent of the Legislature that charter schools are and should become an integral part of the California

                                                                   8
SF 684628v2                            PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1    educational system and that establishment of charter schools should be encouraged.” Under section

         2    47605 a school district “shall not deny” a charter school petition, unless “it makes written factual

         3    findings, specific to the particular petition, setting forth specific facts to support one or more of the

         4    following findings: (1) The charter school presents an unsound educational program for the pupils to be

         5    enrolled in the charter school; (2) The petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement

         6    the program set forth in the petition; (3) The petition does not contain the number of signatures required

         7    by subdivision (a); (4) The petition does not contain an affirmation of each of the conditions described

         8    in subdivision (d); (5) The petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of [the

         9    education programs and measurable pupil outcomes identified for use by the charter school].”

        10    (§ 47605, subd. (b).) This leaves school districts without the ability to deny a charter school petition

        11    unless it falls into one of these categories.

        12            27.     Where school districts cannot deny a charter school petition unless it meets specific

        13    criteria under section 47605, section 47605.6 provides that a county board cannot approve a

        14    countywide charter school petition unless it meets certain criteria. This demonstrates the Legislature’s

        15    intent that school districts serve as authorizer/oversight agents for charter schools and that county

        16    offices of education may only authorize countywide charter schools in very limited circumstances.

        17            28.     In addition to the other statutory requirements, a county board of education “may only

        18    approve a countywide charter if it finds …, that the educational services to be provided by the

        19    charter school will offer services to a pupil population that will benefit from those services and that

        20    cannot be served as well by a charter school that operates in only one school district in the county.”

        21    (§ 47605.6, subd. (a)(1).) Additionally, a county board of education “may grant a charter for the

        22    operation of a school under this part only if the board is satisfied that granting the charter is

        23    consistent with sound educational practice and that the charter school has reasonable justification

        24    for why it could not be established by petition to a school district pursuant to Section 47605.” (§

        25    47605.6, subd. (b).)

        26            29.     The legislative policy with respect to countywide charters is thus the mirror image of

        27    the policy regarding district charters. Whereas the Legislature provides that school districts may not

        28    deny a petition under section 47605 unless certain conditions are met, in contrast, a county board of

                                                                   9
SF 684628v2                             PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1    education may not approve a petition under 47605.6 unless certain conditions are met. Whereas section

         2    47605 prohibits a school district from denying a petition unless specific findings are made, in contrast,

         3    section 47605.6, subdivisions (a) and (b) prohibit the approval of a countywide charter petition unless

         4    specific findings can be made. This demonstrates a strong legislative directive that charter schools be

         5    authorized by local school districts.

         6            30.     Perhaps because of these requirements and the legislative intent that school districts

         7    authorize charter schools reflected therein, Petitioners are informed and believe that less than 50 of the

         8    1,100 charter schools currently operating in the State are countywide charter schools. Notably,

         9    approximately half of all the countywide charters in the State were approved by the SCCBOE for

        10    operation of Rocketship countywide charter schools within a single county. Petitioners are informed

        11    and believe that the majority of county offices of education in California have not authorized any

        12    countywide charter schools and that the most any other county office of education has authorized is a

        13    total of four such charters.

        14                                    District-Level Rocketship Charter Schools

        15            31.     According to SCCOE, in the Fall of 2012, there were 50 charter schools operating

        16    within the County. Five Rocketship charter schools are currently operating within Santa Clara County

        17    that were approved pursuant to section 47605:

        18                       Rocketship (Grades K-5), authorized by San Jose Unified School District.

        19                       Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary (Grades K-6), authorized by

        20                        SCCOE on appeal, is located within the boundaries of San Jose Unified

        21                        School District.

        22                       Rocketship Sí Se Puede (Grades K-6), authorized by SCCOE on appeal, is

        23                        located within the boundaries of Alum Rock Union Elementary School

        24                        District.

        25                       Rocketship Mosaic (Grades K-5), authorized by and located within the

        26                        boundaries of Franklin-McKinley School District.

        27                       Rocketship Spark (Grades TK-5), authorized by and located within the

        28                        boundaries of Franklin-McKinley School District.

                                                                 10
SF 684628v2                            PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1           32.     According to Rocketship’s charters for each of the school district-level charter schools

         2    authorized under section 47605, the Rocketship educational program at these existing schools is

         3    essentially the same as the program described in the petitions for the 20 countywide charter schools and

         4    is designed to serve students who would be at risk of achieving below basic proficiency on state

         5    exams. The demographic data for each school indicates high concentrations of socioeconomically

         6    disadvantaged students, students eligible for Free and Reduced Price Meals, and English Learner

         7    Students. These schools were either in operation or approved at the time the SCCBOE approved the

         8    20 Rocketship countywide charter schools in December 2011.

         9                              Rocketship’s 2009 Petition For A Countywide Charter

        10           33.     Despite the fact that Rocketship has been granted charters by school districts under

        11    section 47605, in 2009 Rocketship bypassed local district authorization by petitioning the

        12    Respondents for approval of a countywide charter school under section 47605.6.

        13           34.     On or about June 17, 2009, SCCBOE approved a countywide charter petition

        14    submitted by Rocketship, granting it permission to open charter schools at five locations within the

        15    County of Santa Clara.

        16           35.     In July 2011, the California Department of Education (“CDE”) notified Rocketship

        17    that all five of its countywide schools would receive the same County-District-School (“CDS”)

        18    Code because they were approved pursuant to a single charter. The CDS code system is designed

        19    to provide the CDE, the Department of Finance, and postsecondary institutions with a basis for

        20    tracking schools. The CDS is the official, unique identification that represents a single school

        21    within California.

        22           36.     In California, the Public Charter Schools Grant Program (“PCSGP”) provides funds

        23    for planning and implementation (“P/I”) grants. The P/I grant provides up to $575,000 for startup

        24    and initial operating capital to new charter schools. Upon information and belief it is alleged that

        25    in order to receive separate P/I grant funding and also to obtain separate accountability reports,

        26    Rocketship decided to seek separate charters, each entitled to its own CDS code and grant funding,

        27    for the four remaining school sites originally authorized under the 2009 countywide charter.

        28

                                                               11
SF 684628v2                            PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1           37.     On August 25, 2011, the SCCBOE approved the second of the five countywide

         2    schools, Rocketship Discovery Prep, which was set to locate in San Jose Unified School District.

         3           38.     On October 10, 2011, Rocketship submitted new petitions for the remaining three

         4    sites, now referred to as Rocketship 6, 7, and 8, which were originally to operate under the

         5    umbrella of the previously approved countywide charter. Each of the petitions asserted the

         6    identical elements to assert that the countywide charters should be granted.

         7           39.     On November 16, 2011, SCCOE staff presented to the SCCBOE its analysis of the

         8    Rocketship 6, 7, and 8 countywide petitions. SCCOE staff’s analysis concluded that none of the

         9    “countywide benefit” factors asserted by Rocketship were supported legally or factually, and based

        10    on these fatal deficiencies staff recommended that the petitions be denied.

        11           40.     Specifically, SCCOE staff concluded:

        12                      First, the petitions failed to demonstrate that the proposed charter schools will

        13                       offer educational services to a pupil population that cannot be served as well

        14                       by a charter school that operates in only one school district in the county; and

        15                      Second, the petitions failed to provide reasonable justification as to why

        16                       charters could not be established by petition to a school district pursuant to

        17                       section 47605.

        18           41.     In support of these conclusions, SCCOE staff pointed to the existing Rocketship

        19    district-level schools that are in fact serving the targeted population of low-income, low-achieving

        20    students. SCCOE staff found that while Rocketship’s goal of recruiting and serving a targeted

        21    population across the county is laudable, “it was not sufficient to justify a countywide charter.”

        22    SCCOE staff correctly pointed out that the test is whether the targeted population cannot be served

        23    as well by a school operating in only one school district, and that the countywide petitioner must

        24    provide reasonable justification as to why a district-level charter could not be established. SCCOE

        25    staff found that the petitions failed to make these required showings.

        26           42.     Upon information and belief, on November 16, 2011, despite SCCOE staff’s

        27    recommendation to deny Rocketship 6, 7, and 8, the SCCBOE approved the countywide charter

        28

                                                               12
SF 684628v2                          PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1    petitions and directed staff to draft findings, making blanket findings that the petitions met the

         2    requirements of section 47605.6.

         3                        Rocketship’s 2011 Petitions For 20 Countywide Charters

         4           43.     In or about November, 2011, Rocketship submitted to Respondents 20 additional

         5    petitions to establish 20 separate countywide charter schools designated Rocketship 9-28. These

         6    charter schools were proposed to open in various school districts within the county, including the

         7    Districts, for terms extending as far out as 2021.

         8           44.     Rocketship’s countywide petitions were essentially identical to one another, and to

         9    the Rocketship 6, 7, and 8 petitions, with the exception of the location for each school. In addition,

        10    each of the 20 petitions contained the same description of the Rocketship mission, educational

        11    program, governance structure, and operational plan.

        12           45.     Similar to the Rocketship 6, 7, and 8 petitions, the second round of charter petitions

        13    for Rocketship 9-28 provided no legal or factual basis as to why the charter schools could not be

        14    established by a petition to a school district under section 47605 or serve students as well by

        15    operating within one school district. Moreover, despite Rocketship’s alleged focus on countywide

        16    “enrollment preferences and access,” each of the 20 countywide petitions sets forth a specific

        17    school district in the county in which the charter intended to locate, and more importantly, included

        18    a specific target area within each of those school districts. Specifically, all 20 countywide petitions

        19    provided that the proposed charter school would open “within 2.5 miles of a public school that is

        20    either undergoing Program Improvement or has both a Free/Reduced meal API below 775 and a

        21    more than 50% Free/Reduced Meal population . . .” demonstrating that the charter school need

        22    not be authorized as a countywide charter to locate within a particular community or target a

        23    particular area or student population. Moreover, the suggestion that an enrollment preference

        24    could serve as the basis for a finding under section 47605.6 is contrary to statutory provisions

        25    regarding charter school admission under both section 47605 and 47605.6.

        26           46.     The charter petitions also failed to present any evidence to show that there would be

        27    any difference in accountability, operations, and/or Rocketship’s educational program between a

        28    countywide charter and a charter approved by a district under section 47605. As such, Rocketship

                                                               13
SF 684628v2                           PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1    failed to provide any reasonable justification for why it could not be established by petition to a

         2    school district pursuant to section 47605, as required by section 47605.6, subdivision (b).

         3           47.     On November 16, 2011, SCCBOE held a public hearing to consider each of the 20

         4    countywide charters. Comments were made by SCCBOE board member Anna Song regarding the

         5    cooperative working relationship that Rocketship shared with Petitioner Franklin-McKinley in

         6    connection with the Rocketship charter schools already approved by that school district. Board

         7    member Song also reiterated the statement of then Board President Keith Nguyen that urged the

         8    SCCBOE to permit Franklin-McKinley “to go at their own speed with Rocketship Education.” No

         9    action was taken on the petitions at the November 16, 2011 meeting.

        10           48.     At its regularly scheduled meeting on December 14, 2011, the SCCBOE considered

        11    the 20 separate countywide charter petitions. Over 11 Santa Clara County school districts appeared

        12    and presented to the SCCBOE to urge the SCCBOE to encourage Rocketship to first bring

        13    petitions before the local districts under section 47605 to: (1) “build strong ties;” (2) allow for

        14    “local governing boards to oversee charters” operating within their districts; and (3) to provide

        15    better “opportunity for collaboration.” Concerns were raised that approving this number of

        16    Rocketship charters all designed to operate the same educational program served to undermine the

        17    opportunity for other programs, including other charters, to provide a range of choice within the

        18    community.

        19           49.     Ignoring the direct evidence demonstrating that there was no basis to grant

        20    countywide charters and without legal or evidentiary support, SCCBOE authorized the 20

        21    Rocketship countywide charters in violation of Education Code section 47605.6.

        22           50.     SCCBOE’s actions in approving the 20 countywide charters were: (1) based on

        23    improper legal reasoning; (2) conclusory; (3) identical rather than based upon the merits of each

        24    proposed countywide petition; and (4) in contravention of the CSA. Notably, although the charters

        25    were approved on or about December 14, 2011, none of the charters were planned to open until

        26    2013. Instead, SCCBOE purported to grant charter terms as far out as through 2021, contrary to

        27    the limitations of section 47607(a)(1) which provides that a charter may be granted “for a period

        28    not to exceed five years.”

                                                                14
SF 684628v2                           PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1           51.     The dates originally authorized were later extended by SCCBOE action such that

         2    none of the 20 approved countywide charter schools is planned to open until Fall 2014:

         3                          District               Rocketship No. and         Revised Start
                                                           Planned Start Date             Date
         4

         5                     Alum Rock Union             Rocketship 9 (2013)             2014
                           Elementary School District      Rocketship 14 (2014)            2014
         6                                                 Rocketship 19 (2015)            2015
                                                           Rocketship 24 (2016)            2016
         7
                            Campbell Union School          Rocketship 20 (2015)            2015
         8                        District

         9                 Franklin-McKinley School        Rocketship 11 (2013)            2015
                                    District               Rocketship 15 (2014)            2016
        10                                                 Rocketship 21 (2015)            2017

        11                  Mt. Pleasant Elementary        Rocketship 25 (2016)            2018
                                School District
        12
                           Oak Grove School District       Rocketship 16 (2014)            2018
        13                                                 Rocketship 22 (2015)            2018
                                                           Rocketship 26 (2016)            2018
        14
                            San Jose Unified School        Rocketship 8 (2012)             2014
        15                          District               Rocketship 12 (2013)            2014
                                                           Rocketship 13 (2013)            2015
        16                                                 Rocketship 17 (2014)            2017
                                                           Rocketship 23 (2015)            2016
        17                                                 Rocketship 27 (2016)            2017
                                                           Rocketship 28 (2016)            2017
        18
                           Santa Clara Unified School      Rocketship 18 (2014)            2016
        19                          District

        20                 Evergreen School District       Rocketship 10 (2013)            2018

        21
                     52.     As a result of Respondents’ actions, at least 20 countywide charters, all operated by
        22
              Rocketship, are planned to open within local district boundaries. Not only are these charters
        23
              granted in violation of section 47607.6, Respondents’ actions interfere with the Districts’ local
        24
              control and usurp the role of school districts in the delivery of public education to their community.
        25
                     53.     As noted in the recent case of Today’s Fresh Start, Inc. v. Los Angeles Cnty. Office
        26
              of Educ. (2013) 57 Cal.4th 197, 218, addressing charter schools:
        27
                     County boards do not operate public schools (see generally §§ 1040–1047), though
        28           they are in some instances the governing boards for schools operated by county
                                                              15
SF 684628v2                          PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1           offices of education (e.g., § 52310.5, subd. (c)). In turn, the schools county offices
                     run are not for the general student population, but instead offer specialized
         2           vocational or technical training or educate specialty groups, including students
                     who are homeless, on probation, in juvenile halls, or have been expelled from
         3           other schools.

         4    The duties of a county board of education are focused on supervision of school district budgets, the

         5    needs of special pupils, dealing with inter-district pupil transfers, and a variety of other county

         6    programs, such as vocational education centers, expelled students, etc., not mass public education.

         7    The conduct undertaken by Respondents violates statutory authority, usurps the role and authority

         8    granted school districts, and violates each District’s sovereignty over public education provided

         9    within its boundaries.

        10           54.     The conduct of Respondents has required Petitioners to engage counsel to vindicate

        11    and enforce these important rights within the meaning of section 1021.5 of the Code of Civil

        12    Procedure and Petitioners are therefore entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees.

        13                                       FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION

        14                                           WRIT OF MANDATE

        15                                   Code of Civil Procedure, Section 1085

        16        [Violation of Education Code, Sections 47605.6 and 47607 as against all Respondents]

        17           55.     Districts re-allege and incorporate by reference as though fully set forth herein the

        18    allegations of paragraphs 1 through 55 above.

        19           56.     Respondents have a ministerial duty to comply with the requirements of the

        20    Education Code in considering and/or approving a petition for a countywide charter school.

        21    Respondents do not have discretion to ignore these criteria, or approve a petition for a countywide

        22    charter school without making the findings required by the Education Code or to approve a charter

        23    school for a term beyond five years.

        24           57.     In order to authorize a countywide charter school, Respondents were required to

        25    find, among other things, that: the educational services to be provided by the charter school will

        26    offer services to a pupil population that will benefit from those services and that cannot be served

        27    as well by a charter school that operates in only one school district in the county; and, that the

        28

                                                                16
SF 684628v2                            PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1    charter school has reasonable justification for why it could not be established by petition to a

         2    school district pursuant to section 47605. (§ 47605.6, subds. (a)(1) & (b).)

         3           58.     Respondents did not make legally sufficient findings to meet these requirements.

         4           59.     To the extent the Respondents found that the 20 countywide charter schools

         5    proposed by Real Party “will offer services to a pupil population … that cannot be served as well

         6    by a charter school that operates in only one school district in the county” such a finding is not

         7    supported by any evidence and Respondents failed to articulate any basis for such finding. Thus,

         8    such a finding would constitute an incorrect legal construction of the statute and an error of law

         9    and would be arbitrary, capricious, entirely lacking in evidentiary support, and unlawful.

        10           60.     To the extent the Respondents found that the 20 countywide charter schools

        11    proposed by Real Party “could not be established by petition to a school district pursuant to section

        12    47605,” such a finding is not supported by any evidence and Respondents failed to articulate any

        13    basis for such finding. Thus, such a finding would constitute an incorrect legal construction of the

        14    statute and an error of law and would be arbitrary, capricious, entirely lacking in evidentiary

        15    support, and unlawful.

        16           61.     To the degree Respondents purported to grant countywide charters for terms beyond

        17    five years after the Petitions were granted, they further violated section 47607.

        18           62.     Respondents had a clear, present, and ministerial duty to deny the petitions to

        19    establish the 20 countywide charter schools proposed by Rocketship unless the evidence supported

        20    the requisite findings. Approval of a countywide charter in absence of findings supported by the

        21    record violates section 47605.6.

        22           63.     Notwithstanding the duty imposed by law upon Respondents, they have refused to

        23    rescind the decision to approve the petitions for the 20 countywide charter schools. The conduct of

        24    Respondents amounts to a failure to perform a ministerial duty.

        25           64.     Districts have a beneficial right to the performance of that duty.

        26           65.     Districts have no plain, speedy, and/or adequate remedy in the ordinary course of

        27    law.

        28

                                                               17
SF 684628v2                            PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT
         1                                        SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

         2                                           DECLARATORY RELIEF

         3                      [Code of Civil Procedure, Section 1060 Against All Respondents]

         4            66.     Districts re-allege and incorporate by reference as though fully set forth herein the

         5    allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 66 above.

         6            67.     An actual controversy has arisen and now exists between Districts and Respondents in

         7    that Districts contend that Respondents’ conduct in approving Real Party’s petition for 20 countywide

         8    charter schools on December 14, 2011 violates sections 47605.6 and 47607.

         9            68.     Districts seek a judicial determination of the rights and legal duties of the parties and a

        10    declaration that the approval of the countywide charter school petitions on December 14, 2011 was in

        11    violation of section 47605.6 as there was no evidence on the record to support the required findings

        12    mandated by that section and that any such findings were not consistent with the requirements of that

        13    provision.

        14            69.     Districts seek a judicial determination of the rights and legal duties of the parties and a

        15    declaration that the approval of the countywide charter school petitions on December 14, 2011 was in

        16    violation of section 47607 in that charters may not be granted for terms that exceed five years.

        17            WHEREFORE, Districts pray:

        18            1.      On the First Cause of Action that a Peremptory Writ of Mandate be issued to

        19    Respondents directing them to set aside SCCBOE’s December 14, 2011 decision approving Real

        20    Party’s petitions for 20 countywide charter schools.

        21            2.      On the Second Cause of Action, that a declaratory judgment issue declaring that the

        22    approval of the countywide charter school petitions on December 14, 2011 was in violation of section

        23    47605.6 and therefore void as there was no evidence on the record to support the required findings

        24    mandated by that section and that any such findings were not consistent with the requirements of that

        25    provision and in violation of section 47607 in that the attempt to approve charters beyond a term of five

        26    years from the date the charter is granted is contrary to law.

        27            3.      For injunctive relief to preclude the operation of the 20 countywide charter schools and

        28    preclude Respondents from taking further action in violation of Education Code.

                                                                   18
SF 684628v2                            PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Categories:
Tags:
Stats:
views:225
posted:2/4/2014
language:Unknown
pages:19