In July, the Sacramento County Superior Court denied the State Board of Education’s (SBE) approval of Mayacamas Charter Middle School, in a victory for Napa Valley students and educators — and the local school district.
Back in December 2021, a petition for the new 336-student charter school was unanimously rejected by the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) Board of Education. The board, as well as the Napa Valley Educators Association and students, families and community members, argued that the proposed charter would have a negative fiscal and community impact for NVUSD students through cuts to staffing, programs and services. The proposed charter enrollment represented a 2% enrollment decrease for NVUSD, and an 8% enrollment decrease for NVUSD’s middle school programs, meaning less funding. Among other issues with the proposed charter:
- There was no viable plan for enrolling and supporting English Learners at the levels the petition specified.
- At least 16 sections of the petition were written for students in another district, not students in Napa Valley. (The law requires a charter to demonstrate how it will serve the specific students of that specific district.)
- The plan for serving students with disabilities was insufficient and copied and pasted from a petition submitted in another district.
- The budget was not sound.
Charter petitioners appealed to the Napa County Board of Education in March 2022 and were rejected again. They then appealed to the SBE, which approved the charter. In November 2022, NVUSD filed a lawsuit contending that the SBE had ignored Assembly Bill 1505, an amendment to the Charter Schools Act passed in 2019 that requires the SBE to find that local districts had “abused their discretion” in deciding to overturn the prior denials. The court found that instead, the SBE had abused its discretion in reversing the district and county boards’ decisions. “As there was no proper legal basis for the State Board’s decision in this matter, the State Board decision must be set aside,” wrote Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang in the final ruling.
“We are pleased the judicial system upheld the law and ruled in favor of NVUSD. The implementation of this decision will support all students in our community.”
— Napa Valley Educators Association President Deb St. Clair
Educators cheered the ruling and what it means for students in the district. “We
are pleased that the judicial system upheld the law and ruled in favor of NVUSD,” said Napa Valley Educators Association President Deb St. Clair. “The implementation of this decision will support all students in our community.”
The petitioner, Mayacamas Charter, intends to appeal. The Educator will follow the outcome.