The National Alliance launched the Charter Schools Legal Action Fund to support select public charter school cases with national impact. Following a successful 2018, in which our local partners achieved significant victories in Washington state and Louisiana, we continue to work with partners in cases touching on a plethora of issues.
Below are three cases to watch in 2019:
In 2016, our opponents filed a constitutional challenge to the Mississippi Charter School Act (CSA) in trial court in Hinds County, Mississippi. The lawsuit alleged the CSA’s funding structure violates the Mississippi Constitution by using local and state public education dollars to fund public charter schools approved and overseen by the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board.
The trial court ruled in favor of public charter schools. The case is now before the Mississippi Supreme Court, where the parties are awaiting the Court’s ruling.
In our continuing efforts to achieve equitable funding for public charter school students, we support this case to protect access to state and local funds public school students attending charter schools.
In 2017, 14 school districts filed two separate lawsuits challenging a law (HB 7069) which makes public charter and district schools’ students more equitably funded. Specifically, the law requires: school districts to share locally raised capital outlay dollars with qualifying public charter schools based on a statutorily prescribed formula; Title I money be passed directly to school districts and public charter schools rather than being used on district-wide programs; the creation of the “Schools of Hope” program, which provides funding to public charter school operators to move into areas with low-performing traditional public schools; the use of a standard charter contract; and it made it easier for public charter school systems to become their own LEA.
The trial court ruled in favor of public charter schools and now the case is before the intermediate appellate state court where the parties are awaiting an oral argument date.
We are supporting this case because, historically, public charter school students have received less funding than their district peers. A victory in this case would preserve the law’s solution to that history of persistent underfunding.
3. District of Columbia
In 2014, the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools and two local public charter schools filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking to enforce the funding requirements of the DC School Reform Act (SRA) of 1995, enacted by Congress, which requires students who attend DC public charter schools receive the same level of funding as students who attend traditional district schools. Notwithstanding this legislative directive, the District of Columbia has, for years, enacted legislation that provides additional funding to district schools without providing commensurate additional funding to D.C. public charter schools.
D.C. public charter schools and the D.C. Association suffered a defeat in trial court and appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where the parties are currently awaiting the Court’s ruling.
As with the Florida case, we are supporting this case to help achieve equitable funding for public charter school students.
We will continue to monitor these cases as they develop over the year and others arise.
Robert Reed, Jr. is the senior director of legal affairs at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Learn more about our legal advocacy work.