Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Goodbye to L.A. Chung

Dedicated readers of The Patch are now aware that L.A. Chung is leaving the Patch to pursue a new career path.  I just want to take a moment to thank her for her hard work in covering our District.  Certainly the pace of the litigation makes it a tough beat.  In our community, there's no easy way to report on the schools issue- not for The Patch, nor anyone else.  I am grateful for the concerted and consistent effort she's put into getting the facts out there.

Best of luck to you, LA!

Facilities Allocation and BCS "Fab Lab"

I received a thoughtful question from a commuity member recently.  With his permission, I'm publishing the question because I think it is of interest to a nubmer of folks.

You probably heard about the "FabLab" that BCS plans to establish next school year.

I was wondering how adding new specialized space plays with Prop 39:

- If LASD had been first to open a FabLab, would it had been obligated to inventory it under Prop 39 rules... and then share it (or duplicate it if sharing is not practical) with BCS?

- If LASD followed suit and opened a FabLab after BCS did, would it have the same Prop39 requirement for inventory and share/duplicate (even if BCS already had its own FabLab)?

- Would it be any different if LASD's FabLab was procured via the PTAs, LAEF or a generous donor?

And I guess that, there is no requirement under Prop39 for BCS to share or even inventory that FabLab, regardless how that space is funded?

Here is my response:

This is part of what the cross-complaint asks the court to address. "Does the District have a right to consider the impact of BCS' private fundraising when allocating facilities?"

The regs deal first with classroom space and real estate. There is a follow-on treatment of equipment that also applies.

If we have building space allocated for a particular purpose, and we have it on only one site, the regs are pretty clear we don't have to make it available to BCS. We would argue that not every student has access to that space. However, if all of our students in a particular grade level have access to something (i.e. a gymnasium) then we have to make the same facilities available to BCS. It is important that we consider this in the totality of the offer, though. "Reasonably equivalent" means that we balance the totality of the offer, not just individual components.

When it comes to the equipment, it generally follows the same path. If we have a fully equipped science lab on most or all of our sites, we make the same equipment available to BCS also. If the District built a large capital project like the fab lab, (and we built one on both Egan and Blach, for example) we would have to make the same equipment available to BCS.

We share any equipment purchased with public funds. However, the law permits us to exclude equipment or facilities purchased with private donations. For example, schools have desks and book shelves, and those were purchased with public funds, so we share them with BCS. On the other hand, the PTA's purchase nearly all of the computers and iPads we use. (Others have been donated privately to the schools). Since they were privately financed,we do not need to purchase computers for BCS.

I'm not aware of any specifics in the law that might allow us to approach BCS and require that they share their privately acquired facilities with LASD students. But to be candid, I haven't spent a lot of time looking at it. It is one of the questions raised by the Appellate judges during oral arguments a little while back. However, they didn't address it in their ruling. Up until now, the only capital equipment BCS has procured has been their MPR. That building is still subject to LASD regulations, since it is located on District land. Whether the District should pursue this with respect to the Fab Lab hasn't really crossed my mind until now. I generally think of it as being part of the overarching question of the cross-complaint.

It is worth pointing folks, once again, to the disclaimer at the right side of this page.  This is my personal opinion, and not a substitute for board policy or action.  Nothing here precludes board action in any way, nor binds us to a particular position.  But it's worth sharing my thoughts anyway...

Litigation Update

It's the summertime, and we'd all like to forget about some of the drama- but I still get questions, so I thought it would be good to share a quick update on the litigation. 

2013-14 Lawsuit
This suit, filed by BCS shortly after the final offer was delivered, raised two challenges to the District's Final Offer of Facilities.  The first part of the challenge asserted that the District could not split BCS across two campuses.  (blog post)  Judge Pierce issued a ruling in favor of the District on the first part just a few days after the hearing.  (ruling for LASD). 

The other part of that lawsuit challenged the District's underlying CEQA study that authorizes the split and provides facilities for BCS at each site.  All CEQA suits are heard by CEQA judges (not the normal Superior Court judges) so we will be in front of yet another judge.  The hearing date for that final part of the 13-14 lawsuit has not yet been set.  We are currently working with BCS on the gathering of documents for the evidence in this effort.   I don't have a court date for this, but the schedules are proscribed by statue, and they're pretty aggressive.  I believe we'll be in court late this summer or early this fall.

"Raynor" Challenge
When the District began exploring the purchase of Raynor in Sunnyvale, we filed a request to the courts for declaratory relief- basically, asking the courts to rule in advance that it is legal for the District to acquire a site outside the District boundaries.  BCS filed a separate lawsuit asking that the District's bid for Raynor be voided by the courts.  Although LASD was not selected by Sunnyvale as the preferred bidder, our request for delcaratory relief is still before the courts because it asks the general question of whether this is legal (vs. the specific question of whether Raynor is legal).  We will have a court date to hear arguments on this issue some time the week of July 22, 2013.  It is my understanding that the Charter School Association has filed an amicus brief in this issue.  (brief)  I'm not surprised by their position -- nor their involvement.  However, it should come as no surprise that I don't agree with what they've said.  We'll see what the courts have to say next week.

2012-13 Lawsuit
When BCS filed their challenge to the 2012-13 facilities allocation, they peeled off key issues to litigate first.  Those issues were all won by LASD back in October 2012.  (court docs, blog post)   There remain a few questions on the BCS case, but I'm not clear on how would those proceed given the fact that the 2012-13 school year is complete.  As a positive step, the 2013-14 case seems to have been moving at a much faster pace, so we shouldn't find ourselves in that position again.

2012-13 Cross Complaint
When the District was approached by community members with concerns about BCS behavior, we filed a cross-complaint asking the court to determine how such actions might impact our duties under prop 39.  For most of last year, BCS tied up that cross-complaint using the anti-SLAPP statute.  (blog post)  With the Appeals court clearing the anti-SLAPP suit, the District is able to move forward with discovery in that lawsuit.

2009-10 Appeal and Attorney's Fees
From the 2009-10 lawsuit, we are still working on the attorney's fee demand from BCS.  The courts sanctioned BCS in November 2013 for refusal to conduct discovery in this case.  (blog post)  BCS appealed these sanctions, but the appeal was denied.  At this point, we've received discovery from the BPEF (Their version of the LAEF), but have not yet completed discovery with BCS itself.  Once that discovery is complete, we will move toward a hearing on the actual fee demand from BCS.  There is not a date set for that yet.

So, the litigation machine moves forward.  I am reminded of some very sage advice I received last year.  "The best way to win a court case is to do the right thing in the first place."  I continue to be encouraged by the consistent rulings from the court for LASD.  I believe it shows that we have been doing the "right thing" throughout this process.  I say that not with any sense of gloating or malice- I simply hope that folks begin to understand that the District is, in fact, acting in accordance with the law.  If we all want a different outcome, we're going to need to find a way to negotiate our way to that outcome.