On February 7, 2018, the Court of Appeal of the State of California, in Today’s Fresh Start Charter School v. Inglewood Unified School District (2018) ___Cal.App.5th___, held that a petition for material revision of an existing charter is governed by different procedures than a petition for renewal of an existing charter, and that a school district is correct to consider those two requests or petitions separately. The Court also confirmed existing law that requires a charter school to obtain a material revision of its petition in order to add new locations.
On November 5, 2015, Today’s Fresh Start Charter School (“TFS”) submitted a document to the Inglewood Unified School District (“IUSD”) entitled “Renewal and Material Revision of the Today’s Fresh Start Charter School Petition,” which sought renewal of the charter for five years and approval to operate a second location. IUSD’s Board did not adopt findings to deny the renewal petition within sixty (60) days of its receipt as required by the California Code of Regulations; therefore, the renewal was automatically approved by operation of law. While IUSD acknowledged that the charter was automatically renewed, it treated the material revision request separately and denied the charter’s request to add a second location.
TFS filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking an order directing IUSD to set aside the resolution denying the request to operate the additional location because the entire petition was approved by operation of law. The trial court rejected this argument and denied the requested relief. TFS appealed the decision.
The Court of Appeal held that the Charter Schools Act (“CSA”) explicitly requires a charter petitioner to seek a material revision to a charter petition to add a location, and further concluded that a material revision is not subject to automatic approval by operation of law, as is true for renewal petitions.
The Court explained that the CSA provides three different categories of charter petitions: establishment, renewal, and material revision – all with distinct procedural requirements. Quoting the express language of Education Code section 47605, subdivision (a)(4), the Court confirmed that adding locations after a charter school is approved is considered a material revision to the petition, even if submitted at the same time as a renewal petition. Submitting a renewal petition and material revision request in the same petition does not change the fact that two different types of approval are sought, each with separate procedures and criteria.
The Court recognized that material revisions must be considered at an “open, public meeting” but found “there is no specific time frame for that public meeting or for a decision, and no requirement for specific written factual findings.” Furthermore, the Court found that unlike renewal petitions, “there is no provision in the statutes or in the regulations that the request be deemed approved if the governing body fails to act.” As a result, the Court held that IUSD has the authority to consider the material revision request to add an additional location even though the renewal petition had been deemed approved.
The decision confirms that a charter school may not add locations unless those locations are approved by the charter authorizer through the material revision process. The decision also clarifies that while the “standards and criteria” in Section 47605 apply to all three types of petitions, there is no set time frame for consideration of a material revision request, and written factual findings are not required for a charter authorizer to deny a material revision request.
If you have questions regarding this decision, please contact us.