San Jose Unified School District Votes to Sue County Office of Education

San Jose’s largest school district will sue the Santa Clara County Office of Education over an allegedly illegal land-use exemption to pave the way for a private charter school. The San Jose Unified School District Board of Trustees last week unanimously voted to sue the county office because it granted a zoning exemption to build the eighth Rocketship charter school in the region.

Problem is, that move may not have been entirely lawful. Only school districts can waive local zoning requirements, SJUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews says.

“This lawsuit is not a statement against the growth of charter schools in the county,” Matthews writes in a statement going before the county board Wednesday. (See the last letter in the link.)

“Rather, we are deeply concerned about the county board exercising a power that it does not have under the law and the impact on both families and the ability of school districts throughout the county to plan their communities.”

SJUSD trustees granted two charter school openings on the same night they agreed to go ahead with the lawsuit. So it’s nothing against the charter school model in SJUSD, Matthews notes. The school district serves more than 32,000 students in 42 schools from Almaden to downtown San Jose.

“The purpose of the lawsuit is to ask the court to correct the county board’s unlawful exercise of powers that are specifically limited to school districts,” Matthews writes. “The zoning exemption is an important part of sensible and orderly planning of school sites in our communities. The county board cannot set a precedent for usurping this power from the school districts.”

Then there’s that whole thing about the toxicity of the site, a topic that bubbled up at a January board meeting.

Other items of note on the Santa Clara County Board of Education agenda for February 20, 2013:

• Even though school-funding Prop. 30 passed last fall, some local school districts still saw budget gaps this year and into the next. The county will consider a move to grant up to $5 million in short-term “bridge loans” in case they’re needed in the next budget cycle.

A $29,000 proposed study would find out how the county can maximize funding by combining some of its school districts. Private firm School Services of California will review five options for district reorganizations if trustees agree to pay the consulting costs.

• Trustees are poised to pay off $9.2 million of bond debt in one fell swoop instead of dragging out payments for years. Paying it all off would save the school district about $1.2 million a year in interest.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

2 Comments

  1. Would the author please check the campaign finance reports for the County Board of Education trustees to see which received money from Rocketship?
    Note that Ms. Green’s campaign finance reports would be for her seat on Alum Rock’s school board.  She was appointed to the County Board so didn’t need to run a campaign.

    The charter schools ran a highly negative campaign against one trustee last fall, Anna Song, who, by the way, voted against the land use exemption for Rocketship.

    Good for San Jose Unified’s school board and superintendent for not allowing their district to be pushed around by political forces, but instead focusing on the law.

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