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Orange County

Proposed Charter School Is Rejected

O.C. Elementary Arts Academy doesn't meet state education-code criteria, official says.

August 23, 2004|Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writer

A proposed Santa Ana charter school has failed to win an eleventh-hour approval from the Orange County Board of Education and will not open Sept. 7 as campus backers had hoped.

"We had the building, we had the students, we had the furniture

The board rejected the school's application late last week in a 4-1 vote.

"It is the opinion of our legal staff that this charter does not meet the criteria under the state's education code," said John L. Nelson, the county's associate superintendent of education. He said the county can license charters under two general guidelines: for programs that the county offers, which includes education for severely disabled students and those in juvenile halls; or for a program that cannot be operated by a local district.

Proponents had taken their proposal to the county after the Santa Ana Unified School District board of trustees revoked the charter's license in June. The district had granted the original charter in 2002, but the project stalled for lack of funds.

This year, a group of parents resurrected the charter and proposed to open an elementary school geared toward the arts.

Michael Harrah, a Santa Ana real estate developer, had offered a $200,000 line of credit for start-up costs. The academy was set to lease a building Harrah owns near downtown.

But district officials balked, saying the new proposal was not financially sound. Academy backers disagreed and took their application to the county.

Charter schools, which often have specialized curricula, are largely independent, but are funded by the state and local districts.

The decision means the nearly 500 students registered to attend the academy will have to enroll elsewhere. About 20 teachers who expected to work in the new school will need to look for jobs. "I'm going to have to move on and find a job," Parmentier said. "But we are hoping that this is just a delay, not the end."

Academy backers could take their case to the state, but it is unlikely they would get a response before the school year starts.

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