SAN DIEGO – Concerned that the Oceanside Unified School District Board of Education unlawfully approved the petition for Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) to establish California School of the Arts San Diego County (CSASDC) on the current site of Jefferson Middle School, the San Diego ACLU asks the Board to reconsider its decision.
In a letter sent today, the legal director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, David Loy, stated the Board’s decision unlawfully approved academic and audition prerequisites for charter school admission, failed to guarantee future preference to students in Jefferson’s former attendance area, risked creating an unjustified disparate impact on Latino students, and ignored the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
“The school board needs to slow down, step back, and start over,” said Loy. “The community must be fully engaged in how the district decides to use the Jefferson campus. The district should serve the children of Oceanside and promote equal educational opportunity for all students. It should not convert a public school campus to a de facto private school run at public expense.”
The ACLU examined Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA)’s petition and determined it violated fundamental principles of open admission and equal educational opportunity enshrined in California law:
- Charter schools are meant to increase learning opportunities for all students, especially those who are academically low achieving. For that reason, the Education Code requires, “A charter school shall admit all pupils who wish to attend the school,” subject only to capacity and certain geographic preferences. The proposed charter school violates that law by requiring a 2.0 GPA and competitive auditions for admission.
- A public school converting partially or entirely into a charter school “shall adopt and maintain a policy giving admission preference to pupils who reside within the former attendance area of that public school.” CSASDC will guarantee preference only to current sixth and seventh graders at Jefferson and will not extend that preference to future students residing within Jefferson’s former attendance area. The failure to continue that preference into the future is illegal.
- Closing Jefferson and replacing it with CSASDC may have an unjustified disparate impact on students of color, whose families often have far less income and net worth than white families and often can’t afford the expensive training, materials, or equipment necessary to audition for admission. Those expenses could count as de facto tuition that charter schools may not charge.
- CSASDC will rely on donations or fundraising campaigns. Although the donations or fundraising are ostensibly voluntary, for families with limited means who have little money or time to contribute to fundraising campaigns, the pressure to give a donation or to fundraise for the school might violate both the Education Code and Free Schools Clause of the California Constitution, as well as create an unlawful disparate impact.
On behalf of the community, the ACLU asks the Board to reconsider its decision on CSASDC in order to provide for meaningful community participation in the decision about how to best use the Jefferson campus to serve the children of Oceanside and promote equal educational opportunity for all students.