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Practice Area Details

Charter Schools

Today, there are more laws to regulate the very schools that were intended to be free of regulation: Charter Schools. Now school districts must ensure that charter schools comply with applicable laws to protect districts from liability for the acts of the charter school.

In direct response to school districts’ growing need for assistance in handling charter school issues, Dannis Woliver Kelley formed a specialized practice group comprised of attorneys with expertise and experience in a variety of areas of education law to provide focused and expert advice to school districts on charter school matters. DWK provides the vigorous advocacy that school districts need to deal with the coordinated network of charter advocacy groups, and to preserve district resources in light of increasingly unfavorable laws that increase burdens on school districts for the benefit of charter schools. Dannis Woliver Kelley unlike other education law firms, prides itself on only representing school districts, and not charter schools, to ensure that its representation remains consistent with its clients’ needs. Following is a description of the services DWK can provide to school districts:

Petition Review and Assessment

  • Advise school districts on the legal requirements governing the charter review and granting process
  • Review the legal sufficiency of charter school petitions in all areas including students, personnel, governance, facilities, special education, and business
  • Build oversight mechanisms directly into the charter that best position the school district to enforce the terms of the charter on an ongoing basis
  • Provide recommendations for denying the establishment of charter schools that do not meet statutory standards
  • Work with school district staff to prepare legally required written findings to support a denial
  • Assist school districts on whether, and on what terms, to renew a charter school
  • Ensure that only the most operationally sound and legally compliant charter proposals are approved

Operational Guidance

  • Provide the full array of assistance in advising the school district as the charter school begins to plan its operations
  • Advise districts in drafting a strong Memorandum of Understanding containing operational terms for running the charter school
  • Consult on locating and securing facilities, complying with special education requirements, and setting up required legal protection for the district

Proposition 39 Facilities Requests

  • Assist in analyzing and responding to facilities requests
  • Provide school districts with a sound approach to assessing facilities requests using an DWK-exclusive Proposition 39 "check list"
  • Assist in negotiating alternative approaches to meeting Proposition 39 requirements to accommodate the district's facilities situation

Oversight, Investigation and Revocation

  • Advise school districts on their legally required supervisory and oversight responsibilities
  • Instruct school districts on how to legally enforce the terms of the charter
  • Assist in identifying and resolving problems in order to maintain a charter school and avoid revocation
  • Where revocation is necessary, help the district conduct revocation proceedings in compliance with applicable law

Legal Proceedings

  • DWK has a successful record in obtaining favorable results for school districts in court proceedings related to charter schools, including facilities and revocation issues

Representative Charter School Cases:

  • California Charter Schools Assoc. v. San Diego Unified School District: The firm successfully defended an action brought on behalf of eight charter schools claiming District had failed to comply with Proposition 39 in denying charter schools' request to be housed in District facilities.
  • Ridgecrest Charter School v. Sierra Sands Unified School District: In an action brought by a charter school to compel the District to provide space for the charter school at a single District site, we successfully argued that the decision where to house charter school students was a discretionary determination that could not be controlled by the courts. The Court of Appeal determined that a charter school is not absolutely entitled to a single site, and that school districts do have discretion in determining whether it can accommodate a charter school population at a single site.
  • Bullis Charter School v. Los Altos School District: Won summary judgment in favor of the District and defeated a claim by a charter school that the facilities offered to it pursuant to Proposition 39 were not reasonably equivalent. Charter school sought an injunction and declaratory relief stating that the district had denied it a reasonably equivalent facility and that it was entitled to a specific school site that it preferred. Several causes of action, including injunctive relief, were dismissed on demurrer. By a summary judgment motion on the remaining causes of action, we presented overwhelming evidence and successfully objected to all of Plaintiff’s evidence. The court granted summary judgment in the District’s favor even though a determination of reasonable equivalence requires a factual determination of whether the District reasonably exercised its discretion.
  • Prosser Creek Charter School v. Tahoe Truckee Unified School District: We successfully defended the District’s right to proceed to revoke a charter without first pursuing the dispute resolution process set forth in the charter.
  • San Francisco Unified School District v. Urban Pioneer Experiential Academy and Related Cases: We represented the District in a wrongful death action brought by the families of two boys that were killed while participating in a charter school camping trip. The District was the charter granting agency and was alleged to have knowledge of lack of appropriate supervision by the charter school administration. We cross complained against the charter school for indemnity and case was settled by payment made by the charter school insurance carrier without contribution by the District.

Training and In-Servicing

  • Charting a Course with Charter Schools: Developing and Maintaining an Effective Oversight Process
  • What Every School Board Member Should Know about Charter Schools
  • What a School Business Official Should Know about Charter Schools
  • Alternatives for Financing Charter School Facilities
  • Charter School Facilities: the Cutting Edge

We can also offer customized in-services to meet the specific needs and interests of your district. Please contact charter@DWKesq.com for more information.

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