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In a move to ensure that local school districts have a say about the public school operations within the geographical area they serve, the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Board of Education voted unanimously last Thursday to file a lawsuit to maintain the link between charter schools and the local school districts in which they operate.
The district is challenging the actions of the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District (AADUSD) Board of Education, which has approved over 20 charter schools to operate outside the AADUSD boundaries, in violation of the intent and letter of California’s 1992 Charter Schools Act. The district further challenges the actions of the SCALE Academy charter school (SCALE Academy) to locate within the Pasadena Unified School District boundaries. PUSD alleges that AADUSD and SCALE Academy failed to comply with the requirements of Education Code sections 47605 and 47605.1, and AADUSD overstepped its role in granting charter schools to be located in Pasadena and other southern California school districts. The actions of AADUSD and SCALE Academy have undermined the critical role of local school districts as well as the voice of the local community in the delivery of public education. The district will also seek the immediate removal of SCALE Academy from within PUSD’s boundaries.
“We want to make sure that families considering enrolling their children at SCALE Academy know that the school is being sued,” said Scott Phelps, PUSD School Board President. “There is a real possibility that SCALE Academy will be shut down by the court for illegally operating outside of AADUSD and within Pasadena Unified boundaries.”
The district contends that AADUSD approved the SCALE Academy charter knowing that it did not intend to operate lawfully within the AADUSD and as a means to generate revenue to address AADUSD’s fiscal instability. Notably, AADUSD is currently assigned a “negative certification” of its budget and being monitored by Los Angeles County Office of Education.
The courts recognize that local school districts have sovereignty over public education within their boundaries in order to best serve the needs of their unique communities. In allowing charter schools to locate in any community in southern California without any input or oversight by the local district and community, the actions of AADUSD Board of Education are out of step with this directive, and the law. This lawsuit seeks to re-establish local school district authority over delivery of education to the benefit of their respective local communities.
“The lawsuit is not an attempt to prevent charter schools in the Pasadena Unified School District, but to ensure that local charter schools are authorized in compliance with law and operate in concert with local school districts to the benefit of our local communities,” said Sue Ann Evans, counsel for the district. “The district recognizes that charter schools can play an important role in the community, but they best complement the services of local school districts when they are formed and operate in conjunction with a local school district.”
The CA Charter School Association Advocates, in a recent “floor alert,” regarding SB1263 (Pavley), a proposed law designed to curb the future abuses of the charter school law regarding location outside of chartering districts, described the AADUSD situation using the words “rogue school district” and “flouted the law,” calling the problem a “situation in which the actions of a single school district have raised serious questions about the implementation of the law.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District and Newhall School District have filed a similar suit against AADUSD, and other Southern California school districts are pursuing similar actions in their regions.