August 2023 ACCS - Item 1 Public Comment 1Public Comment 1 received for Agenda Item 1 of the August 8, 2023, Advisory Commission on Charter Schools meeting.
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August 4, 2023
RE: August 2023 ACCS Meeting Agenda Item #1 - Consideration of Evidence to Hear or Summarily Deny the Appeal of Vista Legacy Global Academy
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 Vista Legacy Global Academy’s (VLGA) 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.
Assembly Bill 1505 (Statutes of 2019) established an abuse of discretion standard in law for charter appeals to the SBE. As Education Code (EDC) Section 47605 (k) states, this high bar is “the most deferential standard of review, under which the state board must give deference to the decisions of the governing board of the school district and the county board of education to deny the petition.” Despite this, we continue to see charter petitioners appeal to the SBE simply because they do not like or agree with the outcomes of robust local analysis, deliberation, and governance—not because any abuse of discretion occurred. Such is the case here, and a failure to summarily deny this appeal will only serve to encourage charter petitioners to continue to bring these baseless appeals to the State Board, wasting the time of not just the State Board, but CDE staff, authorizer staff, authorizer board members and members of the public.
The petitioner alleges that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Los Angeles County Board of Education (LACBOE) did not draw their conclusions about the petitioner’s unlikeliness to successfully implement their educational program or serve the interests of the entire community based on facts. A review of the documentary record submitted indicates the opposite—both LAUSD and LACBOE completed thorough and well-reasoned analyses, based on factual evidence, to support their denial of the Vista Legacy Global Academy petition.
For one, the petitioner contends that LACBOE and LAUSD’s EDC 47605 (c)(2) finding that VLGA is unlikely to successfully implement its educational program was “arbitrary and capricious.” Both LACBOE and LAUSD relied on verifiable California School Dashboard data comparing Vista Charter Public Schools’ existing operational schools against other comparable local public and charter schools. LACBOE and LAUSD found that, for key metrics like math, English Language Arts, English-Learner progress, and chronic absenteeism, existing Vista Charter schools underperformed. To gauge the likelihood of future success in implementing their educational program, it is appropriate and smart to look to past outcomes. Awarding a new charter to an institution that has historically failed to achieve student success would be tantamount to malpractice—setting the neediest students far behind as they prepare to enter college or the workforce.
Furthermore, the petitioner criticizes LACBOE’s evaluation of its financial and operational plan, again, calling it “arbitrary and capricious.” However, the petitioner does not mention that LACBOE was forced to speculate on Vista’s proposed budget due to ambiguous changes that were articulated to LACBOE not through formal amendments to the charter petition—but in a capacity interview on February 13, 2023. While the petitioner originally wrote that they plan on locating VLGA at the existing Vista Charter Middle School site, the petitioner later submitted an application to LAUSD for a Proposition 39 facility, with a modified enrollment that dropped from 125 to 89.3. These changes were unaccounted for in the budget submitted through the charter petition. Comprehensively evaluating both the submitted charter petition and changes articulated aloud by the petitioner at a capacity interview and board meeting requires LACBOE’s analysis to speculate on both possibilities, and the budget presented by the petitioners—when funded with just 89.3 anticipated students—is fiscally unsound.
Any of the above findings alone would be enough basis for LACBOE to recommend the denial of the charter petition. But LACBOE, like LAUSD, conducted its own EDC 47604 (c)(7) analysis, examining enrollment trends for high schools within a three-mile radius of the proposed charter school location. Based on the significant under-enrollment in both area traditional public schools and charter schools, LACBOE concluded that the opening of VLGA would have a substantial impact on local schools, many of which offer comparable programs in health sciences and business. LAUSD similarly completed a comprehensive (c)(7) analysis, which the petitioner maligns as “gargantuan and overly burdensome.” In the same letter where the petitioner claims that LACBOE’s (c)(7) analysis was inadequate, they complain that LAUSD’s analysis was too robust. The petitioner presents no evidence to back their claim that LAUSD’s (c)(7) denial findings are “in conflict with the letter of the law.” Rather, LAUSD clearly presented that their (c)(7) analysis was based on data and calculations about projected revenue loss. Staff used well-reasoned formulas and sourced assumptions to draw their conclusions.
Based on the totality of the documentary record presented, it is clear that both LAUSD and LACBOE did a thorough job evaluating the charter petition and denied it based on multiple written findings. LAUSD and LACBOE are large authorizers with staff time and resources devoted to knowing the Charter Schools Act inside and out. If their analyses are inadequate and their conclusions are erroneous, as the petitioner contends, the SBE would be hard-pressed to find any authorizer suited to evaluate a charter petition as the law requires and our students and their communities deserve.
We, therefore, urge the ACCS to recommend that the SBE summarily deny Vista Legacy Global Academy’s abuse of discretion appeal. If you have any questions regarding our position, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Thank you.
California School Employees Association
California Teachers Association