Revisions to charter school authorization legislation reflect ELA arguments
Courts ruled in favor of CSBA’s Education Legal Alliance and Napa Valley USD in charter authorization case
gavel in a court room

On July 10, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Education Omnibus Trailer Bill, Senate Bill 114, which revised the language of Education Code section 47605 regarding appeals to the State Board of Education (SBE) of charter school petitions denied by school districts and county boards of education.

Specifically, the bill contains revisions that clarify the standard for SBE’s consideration of appeals of denied charter school petitions. The revisions mirror arguments CSBA’s Education Legal Alliance (ELA) made in the litigation it initiated against SBE regarding its grant of an appeal to the Mayacamas Charter School in the Napa Valley Unified School District. (The district also filed a legal action against the SBE.) As discussed in a July 3 CSBA blog post (, the ELA filed a writ of mandate in January, seeking to invalidate the SBE’s decision on the Mayacamas Charter School’s petition appeal, and argued that SBE used the incorrect standard of review and substituted its own judgment for that of the local boards, rather than the “abuse of discretion” standard as required by law.

Assembly Bill 1505, a bill signed in October 2019, had implemented sweeping charter school reforms, which included stripping the SBE of independent authority to approve a charter and requiring SBE to give appropriate deference to the decision of the local boards when considering an appeal of a charter petition. This was the first litigation to seek clarity of AB 1505’s provisions regarding SBE’s role on appeal.

The ELA’s position was that the legislative intent of AB 1505, as demonstrated by both its plain language and legislative history, was that the SBE must give the highest level of deference to local boards in charter school appeals. The ELA additionally argued that the statute permits SBE to overturn a local board’s denial of a charter petition only upon finding that both the district and county board of education abused their discretion. More broadly, the writ informed the court that the underlying legislative intent behind the provisions at issue was, among other reforms, to limit the role of SBE in approving charter school appeals as SBE had granted 78 percent of charter school appeals prior to the implementation of AB 1505. The ELA pointed out that SBE’s action in the Mayacamas Charter School appeal demonstrated its failure to accept that limited role. Thus, both the ELA and Napa USD sought to address SBE’s failure to operate within the confines of AB 1505 through litigation.

On June 29, Judge Shellyanne W.L. Chang of the Sacramento County Superior Court ruled in favor of the ELA and ordered SBE to set aside its decision. The Legislature was clearly following the litigation, as it acted in the same timeframe when it included language in a trailer bill revising Education Code section 47605 in SB 114, the omnibus trailer bill, and directly addressed the issues that were presented by SBE’s grant of the Mayacamas Charter School appeal. The Legislature’s change to the statute vindicated the court’s ruling and the ELA’s and district’s interpretations of the statute. Just 11 days later, the Governor signed SB 114. The bill revised Education Code section 47605 in line with the ELA’s arguments. Specifically, revisions related to charter school appeals to SBE included the following:

  • Clarified that in order to overturn a denial of a charter school petition, SBE must find that both the school district board and county board of education abused their discretion in denying the petition (Ed. Code, § 47605(k)(2)(A) and (E)); and
  • Defined “abuse of discretion” by stating that it “is the most deferential standard of review, under which the state board must give deference to the decisions of the governing board of the school district and the county board of education to deny the petition.” (Ed. Code, § 47605, subd. (k)(2)(E).)

The ELA’s decision to challenge SBE was not only in support of a member district, but also influenced the legislative action taken to ensure that SBE uses the correct standard in future charter school appeals that may come before it. If you would like more information about the ELA, please visit the ELA website or send an email to

Please note that the information provided here by CSBA is for informational purposes and is not legal advice. Please contact your district or county office of education’s legal counsel or CSBA’s Legal Services at for legal questions related to this information.