The California Supreme Court has unanimously decided that the Los Angeles school district’s method for allocating space to charter schools may shortchange them out of classrooms. In a decision written by Justice Goodwin Liu and issued on April 9, the state’s highest court said the district’s formula may “undercount” the number of classrooms that charter schools are entitled to and should be replaced with a different method, the Los Angeles Times reported. But whether the new method would lead to expansions for L.A. charter schools was unclear.
The guidelines laid down by the court contained plenty of room for interpretation, according to The Times. Charter advocates predicted that at least some schools would get additional space, but an attorney for LAUSD said no new charter school classrooms would be required. The case was based on Proposition 39, which voters passed in 2000. It requires school districts to give charters facilities that are reasonably equivalent to those provided to students in traditional public schools.
Charter schools are publicly funded and independently run. Most are nonunion. The court said L.A. Unified violated a state regulation by allocating space to charters based on the number of classrooms staffed by teachers across the district, according to The Times. The law requires other space – including rooms used for study halls or libraries — to be part of the equation, the court said.
“Counting only those classrooms staffed by an assigned teacher would effectively impute to charter schools the same staffing decisions made by the District,” Liu wrote. “But there is no reason to think a charter school would necessarily use classrooms in the same way that the District does.”