Cal. Sch. Bd.S Ass'n v. State Bd. of Educ., A122485.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Citation113 Cal.Rptr.3d 550,186 Cal.App.4th 1298
Decision Date17 November 2010
Docket NumberNo. A122485.,A122485.
PartiesCALIFORNIA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION et al., Petitioners and Appellants, v. STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, Respondent; Aspire Public Schools, Inc., Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

186 Cal.App.4th 1298
113 Cal.Rptr.3d 550

CALIFORNIA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION et al., Petitioners and Appellants,
Aspire Public Schools, Inc., Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

No. A122485.

Court of Appeal, First District, Division 4, California.

July 26, 2010.
As Modified on Denial of Rehearing Aug. 24, 2010.

Review Denied Nov. 17, 2010.

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113 Cal.Rptr.3d 553

Deborah B. Caplan, N. Eugene Hill, Sacramento, Richard C. Miadich, Olson, Hagel & Fishburn, LLP, for Appellants, California School Boards Association, Association of California School Administrators, Stockton Unified School District.

Joseph R. Colton, Priscilla Winslow, Burlingame, California Teachers' Association,

113 Cal.Rptr.3d 554

for Appellants, California Teachers' Association.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., California Attorney General, Susan M. Carson, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Benjamin J. Riley, Deputy Attorney General, for Respondents, California State Board of Education.

Paul C. Minney, Andrew G. Minney, Sacramento, Middleton, Young & Minney, LLP, for Respondents, Aspire Public Schools, Inc.


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Charter schools are public schools that operate independently from, but with oversight by, the school districts or county boards of education that approve their charters. Before 2002, charter schools operated without geographic restrictions; a school chartered in Los Angeles could operate “satellite” campuses as far away as Palo Alto or Mendocino. 1 In 2002, after it came to light that a school chartered in Fresno but operating satellites in far-flung locations had accumulated $1.3 million in debt and was involved in other irregularities, 2 the Legislature amended the Charter Schools Act of 1992 ( Ed.Code, 3 § 47600 et seq.) (CSA) to require that charter schools be located within the districts or counties where they are chartered (see, e.g., §§ 47605, subd. (a)(1), 47605.1). The Legislature also added section 47605.8. Subdivision (a) authorized the State Board of Education (the State Board) to approve statewide charters that would allow a school to operate without the geographic restrictions. Subdivision (b), however, provided that the State Board could not approve a statewide charter unless it first made a finding that “the proposed state charter school will provide instructional services of statewide benefit that cannot be provided by a charter school operating in only one school district, or only in one county.”

In 2007 the State Board approved a statewide charter for Aspire Public Schools, Inc. (Aspire). The California School Boards Association (CSBA) and others filed an action challenging this approval, contending that the State Board failed to determine and make a finding that Aspire's instructional services of a statewide benefit could not be provided through individual charters from local school districts. The State Board and Aspire demurred. They contended, and the trial court ruled, that section 47605.8, subdivision (b) requires the State Board to find the proposed charter school will provide “instructional services of statewide benefit,” but does not require the Board to find, in addition, that the statewide benefit could not be provided through locally approved charters. We conclude that such a finding is required and, accordingly, we reverse.

The petition and complaint contains two other causes of action seeking mandamus. Petitioners allege: (1) the State Board has failed and refused to enforce the conditions of approval imposed on Aspire's charter and should be compelled to do so; and (2) the State Board used policies and procedures in

186 Cal.App.4th 1306

connection with its consideration of statewide charter petitions that have not been adopted in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act (Gov.Code, § 11340 et seq.) (APA) and, therefore, the State Board should be compelled to set

113 Cal.Rptr.3d 555

aside its approval of Aspire's charter. The trial court sustained demurrers to these causes of action. We reverse as to these claims as well.


CSBA, the California Teachers' Association, the Association of California School Administrators, and the Stockton Unified School District (SUSD) (collectively referred to as petitioners) sued the State Board as respondent/defendant and Aspire as real party in interest, seeking a writ of mandate and injunctive and declaratory relief. The State Board and Aspire will be referred to collectively as respondents.

The State Board is the “governing and policy making body for the California Department of Education [CDE].” Aspire is a nonprofit corporation that operates numerous charter schools under charters approved by local school districts or county boards of education, including schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and in the SUSD.


This controversy can best be understood within its statutory framework. We begin, therefore, with a summary of the relevant portions of the CSA and related regulations.

A. The CSA

In 1992 the Legislature enacted a statutory scheme to allow the establishment and operation of charter schools. (§ 47600 et seq.) The intent was to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, and students to establish schools that operate independently from the school district in order to improve learning; create learning opportunities, especially for those who are academically low-achieving; encourage innovative teaching methods; create new opportunities for teachers; provide parents and students expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities available; hold the charter schools accountable for meeting quantifiable outcomes; and provide “vigorous competition within the public school system to stimulate continual improvements in all public schools.” (§ 47601.)

A charter school is established by submitting to the governing board of a school district a petition signed by a number of parents equal to at least half

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of the proposed enrollment, or signed by a number of teachers equal to at least half the number of teachers anticipated at the school. (§ 47605, subd. (a)(1).) The petition must contain a “reasonably comprehensive” description of numerous pedagogical, administrative, and financial components; and myriad other provisions demonstrating adequate plans for good governance, proper testing, an appropriate disciplinary system, financial reporting, and regular consultations with parents. ( Id., subd. (b)(5)(A)-(P).)

After a public hearing (§ 47605, subd. (b)), the district's board decides whether to grant or deny the petition, “guided by the intent of the Legislature that charter schools are and should become an integral part of the California educational system and that establishment of charter schools should be encouraged.” A district board's discretion to deny a charter petition is limited. The statute provides that a school district shall grant a charter ... if it is satisfied that granting the charter is consistent with sound educational practice.” ( Ibid., italics added.) Similarly, the district board can deny the petition only if it makes “written factual findings, specific to the particular petition, setting forth specific facts to support one or more of the following findings: [¶] (1) The charter

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school presents an unsound educational program.... [¶] (2) The petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition. [¶] (3) The petition does not contain the number of signatures required.... [¶] (4) The petition does not contain an affirmation [that the school will be tuition-free, nonsectarian, and nondiscriminatory]. [¶] (5) The petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of [each of the statutorily required components].” ( Ibid.)

If the district's board denies the petition, the petition may be submitted to the county board of education—in effect, an appeal of the denial—which must grant or deny the petition applying the same statutory requirements. If the county board denies the petition, it may be submitted to the State Board, which must also apply the same statutory standards. (§ 47605, subd. (j)(1).) The body that grants the charter is the chartering authority and is required to carry out statutorily mandated oversight duties. (§ 47604.32.)

B. The 2002 Amendments

[1] In 2002 the Legislature amended the CSA. Significant among the amendments was the addition of stringent geographical restrictions for the operation of charter schools. (See §§ 47605, subd. (a)(1), 47605.1; Stats. 2002, ch. 1058, §§ 6, 7, No. 12 West's Cal. Legis. Service.) 4 The impetus behind those amendments, which were sponsored by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, was explained in an analysis

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prepared for the Senate Committee on Education. “The [State Board] has in practice allowed single charters to be used to authorize the operation of multiple school sites, which are called ‘satellites' of the charter. Satellites have often operated at considerable distance from the ‘home’ charter. Early this year the Gateway Charter School, chartered by the Fresno Unified School District, was the subject of several newspaper articles and an ongoing law enforcement investigation, concerning allegations that satellites of the Gateway School were operating in violation of several laws. Gateway's charter was revoked by the district governing board who cited the difficulties of keeping track of remote (satellite) operations as a reason why various anomalies were not discovered sooner.” (Sen. Education Analysis of Assem. Bill No. 1994, supr...

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