Veering away from a dangerous cliff, Oakland Unified and the State Charter School Association agreed to “stay” or pause the lawsuit over access to facilities. We covered this issue earlier, but the short of the matter is that OUSD was likely going to lose a multi million dollar lawsuit over access to facilities, and this agreement to stay the suit, may avoid both an ongoing fight and save the district a stack of cash.
Proposition 39 and “reasonably equivalent” facilities for charters
When the voters approved proposition 39, part of that law, recognized that charter school students are public school students and it created a right for charter schools to “reasonably equivalent” facilities in the district. Basically districts have to offer charter schools equal types of space in public buildings.
Oakland has historically not done this. In the last round of offers one school’s “reasonably equivalent” offer was actually spread out across 7 different sites. That is no way to run a school, and likely would not survive a court’s scrutiny. And LAUSD learned the hard way that the courts are watching, losing a $7 million lawsuit recently.
Getting to Yes on Buildings
I am heartened that the State Charter Association and the District are negotiating this, and pausing the litigation. I really do think that most of these issues can be solved through negotiation. Many district buildings are underutilized, and the district also has other properties that charters might develop under long term leases. And other charters are happy in their own private buildings—which the District should encourage, and support.
Sharing buildings is not necessarily easy but it really can be beneficial for the district. Half empty buildings have a financial cost to the district, when charters help fill them, they often pay the union custodial and grounds staff, and also contribute a maintenance cost for the space. So financially, having more full buildings helps the district financially.
Let’s keep talking, negotiating longer term deals before the Prop 39 deadlines even kick in—so its not this annual struggle to site dozens of schools, and really working with schools to understand their needs and help meet them.
The kids and families at charters are basically the same kids and families in OUSD, and there is a lot of overlap. It does not make sense that charters sometimes spend over $1000 per child annually for private rents while district buildings sit half full. That rent money could go to teachers or services, but instead goes to landlords.
Getting to yes on facilities is good for children, families, the district, and taxpayers. Let’s keep the progress moving.
If you want to read the press release you can see it here