County school boards can't solve charters' zoning problems, court rules
In a decision with statewide implications, a state appeals court ruled that the board of the Santa Clara County Office of Education lacked authority to override local zoning rules to locate a charter school that it had approved.
The Jan. 24 ruling by the San Jose-based 6th District State Court of Appeals takes away from charter schools the option of asking county school boards to make it easier to locate their schools, especially in high-cost, densely developed urban areas like the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
Most charter schools get their charters from school districts. But county school boards can grant charters on appeal, and they are allowed to authorize charters directly under special circumstances.
The charter-friendly Santa Clara County Board of Education gave Rocketship Education, a national network of a dozen charters known for its online learning, its start by granting eight charters through the appeal process and through direct approval of six schools in San Jose. Rocketship navigated local zoning regulations to build schools in all but one location, where the city master plan designated the site as a park. It turned to the county school board, which in 2013 issued what appears to have been the first – and now will probably be the last – exemption from a local zoning law.