Editor's Note: We've updated this story to include responses that are now available from Bullis Charter School Chairman Ken Moore and board member Anne Marie Gallagher.
Calling Bullis Charter School’s request “over the top,” and a “reverse-Robin-Hood demand,” the Los Altos School District answered, in court papers, Tuesday that nothing in Prop. 39 law nor in legal precedence requires it to close a high-performing school campus in order to give it to the charter school.
Taking off the gloves, the school district responded acidly in opposition to the charter school’s July 3 request that Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas compel the district to obey the state law requiring school districts to provide “reasonably equivalent facilities.”
The district defended its methodology and its reason for believing its 2012-13 offer was in full compliance with the law. The district's memorandum of points and authorities are found on the district's website with the rest of its legal papers.
The district's arguments also entered new ground.
For the first time in the long history of litigation, the district raised the issue of money and elitism. It contended that the charter school skims the cream of the student population, leaving the district to educate those that cost more money to educate, then asks the court to close a school with hard-won high test scores. “BCS’s demand that the Court order a school closure is over the top,” the district said.
“It applies admissions preferences and other exclusions to enroll the affluent while excluding those with special needs, ELLs (English Language Learners) and minorities,” the response read. “Its enrollment of Hispanics or Latinos (2.5 %), ELLs (less than 1%) and students with disabilities (6%) are far below District averages in each category.”
The charter school (BCS) filed suit for the 2012-13 school year, asking the judge to compel the district to negotiate for more facilities space at Egan Junior High School for the upcoming year, and then to order the district to provide a campus to BCS by giving it Almond, Gardner Bullis, Santa Rita, or part of Covington School.
"The District's rhetoric is disappointing, but not surprising," BCS Chairman Ken Moore said flatly. "They ignore a simple truth: our K-6 students remain on a temporary camp site that the court of appeals said was too small.
"The trial court will understand that."
In responding to the BCS motion, the district countered the charter school’s contentions on three major points.
The district contended that “BCS’s ‘Me-First’ and exactitude demands ignore the rights of others.”
“BCS … disregards that if the district places BCS’ 466 students on its own site, that would cause huge impacts from closing a neighborhood school that are not measured in numerical facilities comparisons and also force the District to crowd its 4,500-plus other students onto eight sites. That would leave BCS ahead of all others in Prop 39 facilities alone … Again, ‘reasonable equivalence’ does not mean better than everyone else.”
In addition to legal briefs, there were 12 declarations filed by LASD staff, board members and contracted professionals, from architects to CPAs. Five district parents filed declarations, some describing their views of the potential impact of BCS’s request to close a district school. The Uhler family described how they had enrolled their daughter in kindergarten at BCS, but as her special education needs manifested itself, staff was not only unresponsive, but the child's teacher was hostile. In the end, they said, they felt as if they were "pushed out" purposely.
“Proposition 39 requires that facilities be shared fairly between District and students in charter schools that operate as a public school,” said LASD Board President Mark Goines.
“We don’t believe that the District should be forced to close one of its high-performing schools and ignore the impact on its students and families. We would prefer to collaborate with BCS and our community to identify a long-term solution that meets everyone’s needs and avoids further divisive legal actions.”
Anne Marie Gallagher, a BCS board member, said the district's attorneys were simply "throwing everything they can think of at the wall and hoping something will stick" as part of its had "win-at-all-costs" strategy. "They seem to have forgotten that we are all neighbors, and we are engaged in this issue because we all care about children, families and education."
Judge Patricia M. Lucas will conduct a hearing on BCS’ motion on August 15.