Judge certifies class-action status in Reyes v. State of California

By order of a Sacramento County Superior Court dated Feb. 26, 2021, class certification has been granted to a group of nonclassroom-based charter schools, their students and other waitlisted students, to represent all 308 nonclassroom-based charter schools in California in a lawsuit challenging the state’s nonclassroom-based charter school funding measures for the 2020–21 school year in accordance with Senate Bill 98 and amended by SB 820.

According to the plaintiffs, the state is breaking its contractual and statutory obligations as provided under the Charter Schools Act and is in violation of the California Constitution.

At issue are Education Code sections 43502 and 43505, which provide that funding for nonclassroom-based charter schools in the 2020–21 school year be based on their 2019–20 student average daily attendance levels. The laws kept school funding statewide at the 2019–20 student ADA levels to ensure stable funding, allowing schools districts and charter schools to keep the same funding level they received the year before regardless of fluctuation in student attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plaintiffs claim that those provisions are harmful to nonclassroom-based charter schools with growing enrollment in the 2020–21 school year. They maintain that, by limiting funding calculations for their 2020–21 operations to 2019–20 ADA levels, the state is choosing not to fund the education of students who enrolled in the schools after Feb. 29, 2020. Therefore, the affected charter schools are forced to make programmatic cuts in order to accommodate more students with funding apportioned to serve fewer students. According to the complaint, plaintiffs are waitlisting students who they might otherwise enroll due to the lack of funding.

In addition, plaintiffs allege that deferral by the state into the next school year of up to 36 percent of the funding that a nonclassroom-based charter school would receive for 2020–21 school year makes matters worse.

Relief sought by plaintiffs include a declaratory judgment that the state is in violation of the California Constitution, a permanent injunction against the implementation of the offending provisions, and entry of a writ of mandate compelling the state to fund the charter schools for the 2020–21 school year without giving effect to the limiting provisions imposed by the new legislation.

This lawsuit addresses the same issues in Samaiya Atkins, et al. v. State of California filed in July 2020.