Judge certifies class-action lawsuit challenging CA school funding – About Your Online Magazine


A lawsuit filed by three San Diego County licensed school chains that said state funding was unfairly denied now represents all of California’s 308 licensed schools that offer online, home and other non-traditional learning.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Arguelles granted the claimants Reyes v. State of California in a recent court order. Lawyers for plaintiffs at charter schools say this is the first class action involving charter schools in California history.

The 308 charter schools are called non-classroom based charter schools because at least 20% of learning takes place off-campus. Schools generally offer a variety of virtual classes, at home and in person.

Schools enroll 195,000 students across the state and represent 29 percent of the state’s charter schools. About half of its students are low-income, school lawyers said.

California funds districts and charter schools based on their enrollment. Charter schools are public schools administered independently from the districts.

Last fall, three networks of San Diego County-based charter schools – The Classical Academies, The Learning Choice Academy and Springs Charter Schools – along with 13 students from charter schools sued the state for refusing to provide funding to schools for new students enrolled in this school year.

As the pandemic forced many traditional schools to close and go online last year, thousands of families have switched or tried to exchange their students from traditional public schools for these non-face-to-face schools, which have years of experience in distance learning.

Meanwhile, many school districts were struggling to adapt to distance learning and faced the loss of students.

The state decided to freeze funding for schools across the state, so that districts and charter schools would maintain the same funding they received the previous year, regardless of whether they won or lost students during the pandemic. The purpose of the freeze was to protect schools from financial ruin during the pandemic.

Later, the state passed a budget amendment that provided some funding to district schools and classroom-based charter schools for its new students, but not to non-classroom-based charter schools.

The three licensing networks in the San Diego area argued that the freeze illegally denied fair and total funding to students and denied students the right to publicly funded education.

“Every child in California deserves to have their public education funded,” said Jerry Simmons, a plaintiff’s lawyer. “It is unacceptable, especially during a pandemic, that state leaders choose winners and losers among children – that the education of some children is important and others are worth exactly zero.”

Licensed school networks said they were forced to turn down thousands of students because they were unable to serve them, and some schools said they had stretched their budgets by enrolling hundreds of new students for whom they were not being paid.

The three licensed networks in San Diego together enrolled 2,000 new students, but did not receive about $ 20.9 million in state funding for them, the schools said when they filed the lawsuit last year.

The lawsuit named as defendants Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, State Controller Betty Yee and the State of California.

Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The California Department of Education said it does not comment on litigation.

California charter schools not based in classrooms may choose to leave class action until April 16, Simmons said. A hearing for the case is scheduled for July 2.



Paula Fonseca