Monday, October 18, 2021

Calif. judge denies virtual charter schools relief


A California Superior Court judge ruled against several hundred virtual charter schools last week because, he wrote, they had failed to prove students were deprived of an education when the state decided not to provide funding at a certain level during the pandemic, The San Diego Union Tribune reports.

  • The ruling of the California Superior Court by the Hon James P Arguelles

As in most states, schools in California get funding from the state based on the number of students attending the school. When the pandemic struck during the 2020-21 school year, many students left their traditional public schools and decided to enroll at a virtual school, which, in California, is designated a non-classroom-based school because more than 20 percent of instruction is delivered online.

The state, worried about disarray in the finances of schools and school districts, froze funding for schools when the pandemic hit based on the number of students then enrolled at each school, although students were redistributed.

Later, the calculation was unfrozen and the state adjusted funding for schools based on the enrollment when the funds were unfrozen.

But not for the non-classroom-based charters, who filed a class action lawsuit against the state.

Funding for the charters remained frozen, and the state argued that it was under no contractual obligation to provide any level of funding for the charter schools (funding for traditional public schools is determined by state law). That is, the state could recalculate the funding it would provide to the online charters, even if the calculation was different for the charters than it was for traditional public schools.

[California School Law] does not confer upon [non-classroom-based] charter schools contractual rights to public funding based on current-year [Average Daily Attendance]. (Judge James P Arguelles)

Furthermore, the state also argued that non-classroom-based charter schools in the state have a history of abuse and fraud:

The state determined that [non-classroom-based charter schools] raised major concerns for fraud (K12) and abuse (A3) and inferior education and decided to limit the incentive for expanding that model of education during the pandemic while the state considered the underlying policy around [non-classroom-based charter schools]. (Attorney General Rob Bonta, in a June court filing signed by him and others in his office)

Given that the case was fully resolved on the basis of the absence of any contractual obligation of the state to provide funding for charter schools based on current enrollment, Judge Arguelles did not address the fraud and abuse claims in his ruling. The claims were simply “duplicative,” he wrote.

Finally, Judge Arguelles ruled that the charter schools and the families that attended them had failed to show that they were deprived of an education because the state had not increased funding.

“Petitioners have not established that their (non-classroom-based) students actually or effectively have been deprived of an education for any period during the 2020-21 fiscal year,” he wrote.

As no one’s education was harmed or damaged, according to the court, the premise of the lawsuit was unproven. No relief was provided.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.


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