Press Release: Statement from SAUSD Regarding Charter Schools’ Special Education Obligations
Earlier this year, the Santa Ana Unified School District discovered that several charters under its authorization, including the Orange County School for the Arts, had not been making required contributions from their general fund revenue to support special education services for students with disabilities residing in Santa Ana, including those attending schools operated by the District and charter schools. California law and each of the charter school’s charters requires them to contribute a fair share of their general fund revenue to provide special education and related services needed by Santa Ana residents in excess of funding provided for those services from the state and federal government.
The Santa Ana Unified School District informed each charter school it has authorized that participates in its special education local plan area (SELPA) of this required contribution and sought to meet and work collaboratively with them to make the contribution required by law and their charters to students with disabilities residing in Santa Ana. The District expressed its goal to work collaboratively with our charter schools to ensure that the needs of all of our special education students are being met in accordance with existing laws and authorized charters. Contrary to OCSA’s statement, the District has not “threatened” all of its charters with withholding of property tax payments. When informed of its delinquency in making contribution to district wide special education cost that exceed funding, only OCSA responded by steadfastly refusing to make any contribution and confirming they never intended to make any contribution to special education costs in the past, the present or the future. OCSA took the position as they have in the current statement, that it should be able to make its contribution from special education funds instead of the general education revenue that must, by law and charter, be used to contribute. Despite the District’s willingness to work towards resolution without litigation, including a delay of withholding of property tax transfer authorized by their charter, OCSA chose instead to rush into court in pursuit of legal action against the District. It is for these reasons alone that OCSA has forced the invocation of terms referenced in its own charter requiring the withholding of payments.
The Santa Ana Unified School District continues to work collaboratively and amicably with the other charters who have not chosen to turn their backs on the needs of special education students in the Santa Ana Unified SELPA, as OCSA has decided to do. Although OCSA has the ability to make the contribution, with a fund balance in excess of $25 million in March, they refuse to make any contribution as required by law and their charter. After receiving notice from the District, OCSA transferred the funding out of the charter school’s balance, and are now claiming an inability to pay their obligation.
Simply put, OCSA has deliberately and systematically sought to avoid its legal obligation as a public charter school to contribute to excess costs all public schools bear in meeting the educational needs of special needs students. When approached in good faith to work out a fair settlement, they chose instead to expend their funds on court battles and not the needs of special education students. We believe that the children of Santa Ana deserve better.