The Los Altos district and Bullis Charter have stellar test scores and serve the same attendance area that includes parts of Los Altos Hills and Mountain View and all of Los Altos. But rather than enjoying a spacious 10-acre campus similar to other LASD schools, BCS students are crammed into portable classrooms on 5 1/2 acres carved from Egan School on San Antonio Road. The Appeals Court said LASD needs to do much more to give BCS students space and facilities that are "reasonably equivalent" to the space and facilities found at similar schools throughout the district.
We agree. With 465 students, BCS enrollment is similar to that of other LASD elementary schools. The charter school should be given comparable facilities somewhere in the district as required by Proposition 39. After all, BCS students are not coming from outside the district. All are residents of the same area the LASD serves; if BCS were not there, another 465 students would be attending LASD schools.
A key factor is where BCS funding comes from. The charter students are supported by state funds of about $5,076 per student while LASD students are almost entirely funded by local property taxes. This tax stream is not dependent on student count, so the district receives the same amount no matter how many students it serves.
So while LASD is losing responsibility for 465 K-8 students, it is also losing the obligation to support those students in the classroom, while as a basic aid district, it continues to collect property tax regardless of the number of students it serves.
With support from their school foundations, both schools ultimately spend about $11,000 per student each year, although LASD does not have to spend some $5.1 million in costs for BCS students who are now off its "payroll."
Meanwhile, BCS is a continuing success story, with more that 600 applicants for the limited number of spaces available each year. A lottery determines who can attend after seats are given to returning students, siblings of in-district students and students who live in the attendance area for Bullis-Purissima Elementary School in Los Altos Hills, which was shut down and has been reopened under a new name, Gardner Bullis Elementary School. And contrary to some charges, only 25 percent of BCS students live in Los Altos Hills, school officials say, although five of the seven board members do live in the Hills.
With a budget of $4.7 million and state funding of only $5,076 per student, BCS has a wide gap to make up to reach the $11,000 a year goal for each student. We expect school officials are eagerly awaiting the day when they can welcome students to real classrooms on a campus with green grass and room to run.
It is time for the Los Altos district to give up its misguided fight to stifle Bullis Charter and move on. It is not worth wasting $60,000 or more to punish 465 students who just want to attend school on a regular campus like other kids in their neighborhood.