Tuesday, February 24, 2009, 8:36 PM

Last Week's COA Decision Affecting Charter Schools

Last week we didn't post about a NC Court of Appeals (COA) decision involving education law: Sugar Creek Charter School, Inc. et al. v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Educ. (“Sugar Creek II”).

We have colleagues in our firm who practice education law, and one of them, Sarah Motley of Charlotte, prepared this post about the case.

The case involves Judge Cayer's summary judgment order directing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (CMS) to distribute $1,295,857.00 to the plaintiffs, which are charter schools. (Last week's decision is the COA's second decision arising out of Judge Cayer's order. See Sugar Creek I, 655 S.E.2d 850 (2008).)

The charter schools sued CMS challenging its distribution of per pupil pro rata shares of money from the local school fund. At issue in Sugar Creek II was CMS's claim that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case: CMS claimed that the State Board of Education (BOE) instead must hear all cases involving the distribution of local school funds.

The COA held that nothing in North Carolina law grants the BOE supervisory authority over local school funds or the power to determine disputes or to provide redress for alleged misuse of local funds. The COA also rejected CMS's claim that there was no private cause of action for violations of the charter school funding statutes.

Finally, with respect to calculating local funds, the Court analyzed several categories and determined whether or not they were appropriately included in the determination of the "per pupil local current expense appropriation."

This case is significant because of the narrow reading of the state BOE's authority and the continued victory for the charter schools that will have ramifications for many of the 115 school boards and the 100 charter schools in North Carolina.

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