Two school districts, Newhall and Los Angeles Unified, are suing the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District over claims AADUSD’s May 13, 2013, approval of a charter school for Albert Einstein Academy for the Letters, Arts and Sciences was illegal.
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An AADUSD board member denied the district conducted any violations of the law with respect to its charter school approvals.
A 23-page lawsuit filed Friday lists Newhall School District as the plaintiff and AADUSD and Albert Einstein as co-defendants, alleging AADUSD unlawfully approved Einstein’s charter and plans to usurp the Newhall School District’s constitutional right to local control for its geographic boundaries.
LAUSD officials made a similar claim, also naming Academy of the Arts and Sciences as a co-defendant.
“I think what’s important about this is, is that by locating a charter school in another district’s boundaries, you’re invalidating the process by which the local community participates in the decision of whether there should be a charter school in that community,” said Sue Ann Evans, a partner in Dannis Woliver Kelley, the law firm representing the Newhall School District.
The lawsuit seeks to overturn the approval of Einstein’s charter granted last May and prevent the school from operating a site recently purchased within Newhall School District boundaries.
Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District officials had not yet been served with the lawsuit as of Friday evening.
When reached for comment about the suit, AADUSD board member Ed Porter maintained the charter petition approvals were done legally.
“We’re operating within the legal confines for charters schools set forth by the state,” Porter said.
Recent legislation aimed at confining the area in which a district can charter a school to the district’s geographic boundaries, Senate Bill 1263, doesn’t address the real problem, he said. He called the bill’s effort short-sighted.
“I’m a big believer in what’s customarily offered in public education, and we offer a program second to none, but a lot of parents just don’t want it,” he added.
Forcing parents to attend a school they didn’t want wasn’t in their best interests, Porter said.
In the lawsuit, Newhall School District officials claim AADUSD’s May 13, 2013, approval of Einstein Academy’s charter violated the laws, according to the state’s Education Code.
An attempt to reach an Einstein Academy official late Friday night was unsuccessful.
The suit contends there was improper notification by Einstein Academy officials, and that the school didn’t prove a sufficient need to operate a location outside of AADUSD’s boundaries.
“Acton Agua Dulce left us no choice in this matter. We sent a cease-and-desist letter on May 12, 2014, and waited over two weeks with no response,” said Brian Walters, president of Newhall’s governing board, in a statement. “This could have been easily resolved if AADUSD chose to abide by the intent and letter of the law by keeping the Albert Einstein Academy operating in the district where they were chartered.”
The lawsuit is also part of an effort by the school district to stop Einstein Academy from opening a location at the former Pinecrest School property in Newhall.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a letter from the Los Angeles County Office of Education, which is providing a fiscal crisis management team to address AADUSD budgetary concerns, putting a pause on the district’s recent approval of five additional charter schools.
A May 30 letter from LACOE regarding the stay noted: “Due to the fiscal solvency issues identified in the letters, and with the high probability that the board actions may be inconsistent with the district’s fiscal recovery (including negative impact on cash flows), we are staying the (approvals).” The decision is under review by county education officials.
AADUSD received a negative certification for its budget, which was recently re-affirmed by the county’s superintendent, prompting the oversight team.
Porter said there wasn’t a significant financial gain for the district in the approvals of charters, and his board’s actions fell in line with the purpose of charter law.
“Theres this huge demand for something we’re not offering,” Porter said, adding the board was “offering solutions to parents.”
The Newhall School District already rejected a charter petition from Einstein Academy in 2010, a decision the school did not appeal with LACOE, according to the suit.
“The lawsuit is not an attempt to prevent charter schools in the Newhall School District,” Evans said, “but to insure that local charter schools are authorized in compliance with law and operate in concert with local school districts to the benefit of our local communities.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News