The Los Altos School District filed a petition Jan. 9 asking the Superior Court of the state of California for Santa Clara County to block the Santa Clara County Office of Education Board of Trustees" approval of Bullis Charter School"s 2007 charter revision, declaring such a revision would violate education codes.
The legal action was filed in response to the county board"s Nov. 26 approval to amend the charter school"s enrollment procedure.
The amendment provides a process for managing selections when the number of applications exceeds the availability in any grade level for the following year. The charter requires "a public random lottery … with the exception of existing students who are guaranteed enrollment in the following school year."
Preferences in the lottery would extend to the following: After siblings of current students who reside within the Los Altos School District have been accepted, the charter school could grant preference (up to 50 percent of the total available openings) to students who reside within the boundaries of the former Bullis-Purissima Elementary School attendance area, as drawn by the district in the 2002-2003 school year.
The school district contends the revision violates provisions of California"s Education Code by favoring students in a portion of Los Altos Hills over the rest of the Los Altos School District.
The education code states that "admission to a charter school shall not be determined according to the place or residence of the pupil" and "preference shall be extended to pupils currently attending the charter school and pupils who reside in the district."
The LASD attorney, Donald Velez of Miller Brown & Dannis of San Francisco, said that the charter revision violates the code "because BCS" charter revision provides for admission preferences based on residence" and "because the charter revision does not implement a preference based on "students who reside in the district" but only for a portion of "students who reside in the district.""
"I think the (LASD) board would like to have the court system verify whether the county board"s decision to provide an attendance area for an independent charter school is in the intent of the charter law," LASD Superintendent Tim Justus said. "We do not believe the board interpreted the charter act correctly."
Jane Howard, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Trustees, said she had not read the petition and couldn"t comment. Larry Slonaker, public information coordinator for the county office of education, said the office cannot comment on pending litigation.
Bullis Charter School is a K-6 public school that is historically oversubscribed and uses a tiered priority system in conjunction with a random lottery to determine admission. Currently, returning students have top priority, followed by: siblings residing within LASD boundaries; children residing in the former Bullis-Purissima attendance area (not to exceed 50 percent of the available spaces); students residing within LASD boundaries; siblings residing out-of-district; and all out-of-district applicants.
Prior to the amendment, students from the Los Altos School District applying for a spot at the charter school were put in a lottery regardless of their address. With the exception of its first year, the charter school"s enrollment has exceeded capacity.
When asked how the preference might affect the reopening of Bullis-Purissima Elementary School in the fall, Justus said it might have an impact, but many things impact enrollment.
"It"s not about losing children, but really about the interpretation," Justus said. "Was this correct? Because we don"t think it was. In the long run this might have an impact on our schools."
When asked about legal expenses, Justus said the case is too early in the legal process to weigh finances. The district is currently facing budget cuts from the state.
"We have no idea what this is going to cost," Justus said.