CLC the 501(c)3

I’d like to clarify an issue related to CLC’s conversion to a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation.

When people talk about “CLC” they frequently blur the line between what I’ll call “CLC the school” and “CLC the entity that operates the school”. That’s been particularly easy to do historically because there wasn’t much, if any, practical difference between the two entities. “CLC the entity that operates the school” didn’t exist as a legal entity. Which was fine so far as charter school law was concerned – there’s no requirement that a charter petition be filed by a legal entity. Charter petitions can be – and in the early days many were – simply filed by a group of like-minded individuals who want to set up a school and can demonstrate they meet the requirements set forth in the law.

With the transition to having a true legal entity – the 501(c)3 corporation – be the operator the situation becomes a little different. There’s nothing wrong with a not-for-profit corporation being the operator of a charter school. Indeed, most new charter schools are set up that way.

But the 501(c)3 entity is not the same whatever-you-want-to-call-it entity that filed CLC’s original and renewed charter petitions. And under California law, whenever there’s a “material change” in a charter school’s situation, a new charter petition has to be submitted, reviewed and approved.

What does this mean? Simply that there’s likely to be one more step along the road to having CLC-the-501(c)3 become the operator of CLC-the-school: approval of a new charter.

Why do I say likely? The three parties to the change – the original petitioner (CLC-whatever-you-want-to-call-it), the new petitioner (CLC-the-501(c)3) and the chartering agency, in this case the San Carlos Board of Trustees – might chose to treat the change as a minor amendment. That would sidestep the charter drafting/submission/review/approval cycle.

But, personally, I don’t think that’s the way to go. District counsel made an important point about the change in a meeting I was in (not a Board meeting, by the way) that is germane to this discussion. While there is no “charter material change enforcement agency” which runs around ensuring the law is followed properly, counsel could not imagine how any judge in the state would not see changing the operator of a charter school as a material change. Given the depth of experience our local counsel has with charter school law, I found that pretty compelling.

Separate from the legal argument, I also think it’s best to follow established protocol as closely as possible in these kinds of things, even if one were to decide there’s some flexibility available. Cutting corners has a way of coming back to haunt you.

That said, the Board hasn’t, so far as I’m aware, taken a position on the matter. But if it does decide to view this shift as a material change, then I suspect a new/revised charter petition will need to be prepared and filed. That could, of course, involve a pretty simple editing job, merely incorporating references to CLC-the-501(c)3. But it could be more involved, if either the CLC community or the Board wants to see some additional tweaks.

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