June 2023 ACCS - Item 3 Public Comment 1Public Comment 1 received for Agenda Item 3 of the June 13, 2023, Advisory Commission on Charter Schools meeting.
The following information was provided on joint California School Employees Association and California Teachers Association letterhead. Except when needed for accessibility purposes, no corrections to spelling, grammatical, or typographical errors have been made. The Charter Schools Division understands the following acronyms to mean: EDC = Education Code; TK = transitional kindergarten; FTE = full-time equivalent; PCI = Pacific Charter Institute; UC = University of California; CSU = California State University; CDE = California Department of Education.
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June 9, 2023
RE: June 2023 ACCS Meeting Agenda Item #3 - Consideration of Evidence to Hear or Summarily Deny the Appeal of New Pacific School – Yuba City
Dear Members of the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools:
On behalf of the California School Employees Association (CSEA) and California Teachers Association (CTA), we are writing respectfully to urge the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools (ACCS) to recommend that the State Board of Education (SBE) summarily deny New Pacific School – Yuba City’s abuse of discretion appeal.
CSEA and CTA collectively represent over half a million educators and classified staff across the State of California. Every school day, our members transport students to school, feed them nutritious meals, keep them safe on campus, and teach them essential skills. Increasingly, these crucial student services are threatened by inadequate funding and shrinking public education budgets, which are all exacerbated by declining enrollment. CSEA and CTA firmly believe that when a school board decides to approve a new charter petition, that board must thoroughly scrutinize how the proposed charter school will benefit the entire community and supplement, not supplant, the educational programs offered by traditional public schools. Approving charter petitions without thorough scrutiny and the highest of standards will only result in a decreased level of services for students at existing public schools.
The facts in this abuse of discretion appeal case are clear—at its August 23, 2022, the Yuba City Unified School District (YCUSD) Board voted 5-0 to deny the New Pacific School charter petition after adopting the following written findings:
- The petition presents an unsound educational program [EDC 47605 (c)(1)].
- The petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition [EDC 47605 (c)(2)].
- The petition does not contain the number of signatures required under EDC 47605 (a) [EDC 47605 (c)(3)].
- The petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of Elements (A) through (O) of EDC 47605 (c)(5).
In its analysis supporting the written factual findings, YCUSD staff stressed the challenges the petitioners will face educating students in multi-grade classroom environments while engaging in individualized project-based learning, teaching state standards, and maintaining legally required class size ratios and ongoing teacher training. These challenges are exacerbated when examining the New Pacific School’s proposed budget. The budget only accounts for three full-time teaching staff members, intended to serve up to 100 TK-5th grade students. To restate the YCUSD analysis of this budget:
With such low FTE, the Charter School would not appear to be able to ensure adequate instruction, as well as the individualized support and interventions promised for students who are below, at, and above grade level proficiencies and the revenues and proposed budget, with a little over $6,000 net ongoing revenue over ongoing expenditures (excluding PCI grants) in the first year insufficient to support any additional teaching staff (Documentary Record from Yuba City Unified School District, Page 24).
Furthermore, YCUSD staff found that Ms. Nancy Bean, the proposed principal for New Pacific School in Yuba City, is also expected to serve concurrently as the principal for the New Pacific School in Rancho Cordova—located 50 miles away. The project of managing one new TK-12 school alone is difficult enough for one person to handle. Staff emphasized that given Ms. Bean’s lack of experience leading a classroom-based high school program, the New Pacific School in Yuba City will find it difficult to successfully implement their programs under this organizational structure.
Most concerningly, YCUSD staff analyzed how the New Pacific School expects to expand their TK-5 operation into a TK-12 operation that intends to meet the UC/CSU A-G requirements. Given the limited teaching staff described in the petition and projected in its budget, district staff concluded that “the petition appears to be describing, in essence, an independent study program cast as a seat-based model in order to avoid the current statutory moratorium on new independent student charter schools”—of which the Pacific Charter Institute primarily operates.
Based on the totality of the documentary record presented, it is clear that the YCUSD staff and board did a thorough job evaluating the charter petition and denied it based on written findings as required by law. It is also clear that the Sutter County Board of Education did not fulfill their duties to the same extent by failing to adopt written factual findings to support their denial of the New Pacific School’s petition. However, the law plainly states that the SBE may grant a charter petition on appeal only if it finds that both the district and the county abused their discretion. In other words, the SBE need not affirm both decisions to uphold one local education agency’s decision to deny the New Pacific School’s petition. See Education Code 47605 (k)(2)(E) (“If the state board hears the appeal, the state board may affirm the determination of the governing board of the school district or the county board of education, or both of those determinations, or may reverse only upon determination that there was an abuse of discretion”) (emphasis added).
The fact that an abuse of discretion must occur at both the district level and the county level in order to grant the appeal has been affirmed by both CDE staff and SBE staff as a part of deliberations of post-AB 1505 charter appeals by the State Board.1 It necessarily follows here that, given YCUSD’s robust analysis of the New Pacific School petition and lawful denial of the petition, the ACCS should recommend that the SBE summarily deny the New Pacific School – Yuba City’s abuse of discretion appeal.
California School Employees Association
California Teachers Association
1 See State Board of Education Meeting on September 15, 2022 response to Board Member Dr. Cynthia Glover Woods, CDE's Charter Schools Division Director states, "it is the CDE's understanding that [an abuse of discretion] needs to happen at both [levels] (4:14:00): CDE Counsel Judy Cias states that the SBE's motion should "include specific findings that articulate why you all are determining that there has been an abuse of discretion [at both levels]." Judy Cias further states that "it is our opinion that you need to find an abuse of discretion at both the district and the county level because otherwise since both of the determinations at each level are de novo then if you determine that there was not an abuse of discretion at one then the charter school did receive a fair and impartial hearing on the record" (4:31:00). https://youtu.be/rOfXy2e6ewU?t=16297