School Choice & Charters

Charter Schools

October 08, 2003 1 min read
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Calif. Fight Ends

Ending a legal battle over the contentious issue of charter school facilities, a California appeals court has ruled that a local school district must offer space to a charter school that serves a critical mass of students from the district—even if another school system gave the school its charter.

The fight between the Sequoia Union High School District and the 90-student Aurora High School in Redwood City, Calif., has been closely watched, in part because it involves Proposition 39, a ballot measure passed three years ago that required districts to provide space for charter schools.

Even though Aurora High serves grades 9-12, it received its five-year charter in 1999 from the Redwood City school system, a K-8 district that feeds into the 7,500-student Sequoia Union district.

So when the school asked Sequoia for space under Proposition 39, the district sued in state court. It argued that Redwood City, as the authorizer, was responsible.

A San Mateo County Superior Court judge disagreed, and on Sept. 25, a three-judge appeals court panel unanimously affirmed that judgment.

Both Sequoia Union’s superintendent and Aurora High’s principal have come on board since the legal fight began 17 months ago, and the district has offered the school space in one of its high schools. But the school found the site unsuitable, and is staying put in rented space.

Still, Aurora High Principal Noah Salzman called the ruling “a wonderful victory for charter schools as a whole in California.”

Pat Gemma, Sequoia’s schools chief, said last week that he did not expect the district to appeal the ruling.

Self-Evaluation

The nation’s only mayor with the authority to charter schools has issued a warts-and-all evaluation of how well the first three schools he authorized performed in their inaugural year of operation.

“2003 Accountability Report on Mayor-Sponsored Charter Schools,” is available from the City of Indianapolis. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The report by Mayor Bart Peterson of Indianapolis shows uneven performance among the schools, both on standardized-test scores and in surveys of parent and staff satisfaction. Mr. Peterson, who was expected this week to charter his 10th school, vowed to produce similar reports in the future as part of an accountability system his office crafted in consultation with national experts.

Caroline Hendrie

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