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The Kamit Institute For Magnificent Achievers v. District of Columbia Public Charter School Board

November 15, 2012


Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CAB-9997-10, CAP-6091-10) (Hon. Michael L. Rankin, Trial Judge)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steadman, Senior Judge:

Argued May 16, 2012

Before OBERLY and BECKWITH, Associate Judges, and STEADMAN, Senior Judge.

The Public Charter School Board ("PCSB") unanimously revoked the charter of the Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers ("Kamit") on August 12, 2010. It explained the reasons for taking this action in an extensive accompanying decision statement. Kamit immediately sought judicial review by the Superior Court through a petition for agency review and filed an emergency motion to stay the revocation pending a decision on the review petition. After a series of hearings on the stay motion, the motions court issued a lengthy opinion exhaustively analyzing Kamit‟s arguments. It concluded that even though there would be significant harm to Kamit if the stay were denied, Kamit had such a low likelihood of success on the merits that it was not entitled to a stay. Our court affirmed the denial on August 27, 2010, noting that the motions court‟s opinion was "painstaking and thoughtful." Kamit subsequently filed a civil complaint against the PCSB*fn1 challenging the revocation decision.

Before us now are two consolidated appeals. One is from the decision of the trial court addressing the merits of the agency petition, adopting the motions court‟s findings and analysis, and affirming the revocation. The other is from the order of the trial court granting PCSB‟s motion to dismiss Kamit‟s civil complaint under Super. Ct. Civ. R. 12(b)(6). Once again, we review the PCSB‟s decision to revoke and conclude, as the statutory standard of review requires, that the decision has not been shown to have been arbitrary and capricious or clearly erroneous and hence must be upheld. Likewise, having made that determination, we affirm the dismissal of the related civil complaint.

I. Facts

A.The District of Columbia Public Charter School System

The School Reform Act of 1995 ("SRA") created the District of Columbia public charter school system. In Richard Milburn Pub. Charter Alt. High Sch. v. Cafritz,798 A.2d 531 (D.C. 2002), a case also involving a charter revocation, we reviewed at some length the background, purposes, and procedures of the then new system. We noted that "[t]he public charter schools were seen as a vehicle for increasing educational options for the District‟s students and parents by providing a more diverse mix of educational programs; testing innovative teaching approaches; promoting community and parent involvement in public education; and dispensing with regulatory and bureaucratic obstacles." Id. at 533-34. The SRA "allows the charter schools to operate without being subject to the District‟s education laws and regulations" and, notably, to receive public funding "comparable to that received by the traditional public schools within the system." Id. at 534.

A system involving public funding necessarily required oversight. Initially, such responsibility was held by both the District of Columbia Board of Education ("BOE") and the newly created PCSB. The BOE relinquished its chartering and oversight authority in 2007 and eighteen BOE-authorized schools, including Kamit, were transferred to the PCSB‟s oversight. See D.C. Code § 38-1802.01 (f).*fn2

By statute, the principal oversight obligations of the PCSB are three-fold and broadly worded: first, to "monitor the operations of each public charter school," second, to "ensure that each such school complies with applicable laws and the provisions of the charter granted to such school," and third, to "monitor the progress of each such school in meeting student academic achievement expectations specified in the charter granted to such school." D.C. Code § 38-1802.11 (a)(1).*fn3 The PCSB is composed of seven members who are appointed by the Mayor with Council approval and are selected to ensure that knowledge of a wide variety of matters of educational and operational policy specifically set forth in the statute is represented on the PCSB. D.C. Code § 38-1802.14 (a)(2). PCSB‟s members and staff must be independent from all charter and public schools. D.C. Code § 38-1802.14 (a)(6). Each charter school must submit to the PCSB a detailed annual report of its operations, both educational and financial. D.C. Code § 38-1802.04 (c)(11).

Under the statute, the PCSB may revoke a school‟s charter if the PCSB determines that the school "(1) [c]ommitted a violation of applicable law or a material violation of the conditions, terms, standards, or procedures set forth in the charter, including violations relating to the education of children with disabilities" or "(2) [h]as failed to meet the goals and student academic achievement expectations set forth in the charter." D.C. Code § 38-1802.13 (a)(1)-(2).*fn4 As part of its oversight function, the PCSB is required at least once every five years to review a charter school to determine whether the charter should be revoked. D.C. Code § 38-1802.12 (a)(3). The statutory procedures to be followed in a revocation proceeding are set forth in some detail and were sustained by us against a constitutional attack in the Richard Milburn case. 798 A.2d at 549-50. In brief, before a charter may be revoked, the PCSB must provide to the school written notice stating the reasons for the proposed revocation and informing the school of its right to an "informal hearing." D.C. Code § 38-1802.13 (c)(1). The final decision of the PCSB must be in writing and state the reasons for the revocation. D.C. Code § 38-1802.13 (c)(4).

Over fourteen years, the PCSB has revoked six charters, while an additional ten schools have relinquished their charters as a result of the PCSB placing the school on probationary status or proposing revocation.

B.The Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers

Kamit was a public charter school established in 2000 and approved by the BOE. It served approximately 250 middle school and high school students before its charter was revoked in 2010. In its charter petition,*fn5 Kamit submitted a Mission and Goals Statement, which provided both Academic ...

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