MARTINEZ -- The California Charter Schools Association has sued the West Contra Costa school district for discriminating against African-American and Latino students by failing to share parcel tax revenues with charter schools.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Contra Costa County Superior Court, the association asserted that the district has refused to give a share of the tax proceeds to eight charter schools located within the district. The parcel tax revenues provide instructional materials, smaller class sizes, support staff and programs.
"By excluding students attending charter public schools from parcel tax revenue WCCUSD is creating two classes of students in the public education system, is violating their fundamental right to education, and is also denying them equal protection as guaranteed by the California Constitution," said association President and CEO Jed Wallace in a prepared statement.
The district's Measure G parcel tax approved by 75 percent of voters in 2012 generates about $300 per student or $10 million a year. The district uses the money to reduce class sizes and help pay for staff, programs or materials.
Charles Ramsey, president of the West Contra Costa school board, said the five charter schools approved by the district signed agreements stating they would not receive parcel tax revenues.
"I think they're going to lose on that one because there's express language that prohibits them from having a piece of the parcel tax," Ramsey said. "They signed it. And they've never asked for it in the past."
District spokesman Marcus Walton said the state's Education Code specifically says parcel tax revenues are subject to negotiations between a district and a charter school.
"State law says parcel taxes need to be negotiated as part of any agreements in order for the charter schools to access those funds," Walton said.
Ricardo Soto, attorney for the charter association, said a judge will decide whether the rights of students supersede negotiated agreements.
"The claims that we are making relate to the charter school students themselves," he said. "It's really the students that have the right to equal protection under the Constitution and who shouldn't be discriminated against by a public agency like the West Contra school district."
Also, he said the parents of charter school students may have voted for the tax, yet their children are not benefiting from it. San Francisco Unified has shared parcel tax revenues with charter schools and the Livermore district plans to share revenues from a parcel tax it expects to place on the November ballot, Soto added.
District-approved: Leadership Public Schools, Manzanita Charter Middle School, Richmond Charter Academy Middle School, Richmond College Preparatory School and Richmond Charter Academy Elementary.
County-approved: Making Waves Academy, Summit Public School and Caliber Beta Academy.
To see the lawsuit and a letter from the charter association to the district, visit www.contracostatimes.com/education.