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Jeffco rejection of Lotus charter stands

The State Board of Education Wednesday deadlocked on an appeal filed by the Lotus School for Excellence II, a charter organization that wanted to open a science and math school in Jefferson County.

The Jefferson County school board rejected the Lotus application last October and had turned down a previous application in 2008. Lotus, which operates a middle-school charter in the Aurora school district, appealed the 2009 decision to the state board, as is allowed under state charter laws.

The state board’s inability to reach a decision means the ruling by the Jeffco school board stands.

In documents filed with the board, and in arguments by lawyer Allen Taggert Wednesday, the school district argued that Lotus hadn’t demonstrated adequate academic performance at its 242-student Aurora school, expressed concerns about the level of parent involvement in Lotus operations and said Lotus’ high student attrition rate raised questions about financial viability.

Lotus argued that Jeffco misinterpreted student achievement data and also disagreed with the district’s claims about parent involvement and student attrition.

Data from the Department of Education’s SchoolView website shows that the Lotus Aurora school has lower-than-average math test scores but higher-than-average student growth.

The state board first deadlocked 3-3 on a motion to reject the appeal. Three Democratic members, Elaine Gantz Berman, Jane Goff and Angelika Schroeder voted yes while Republicans Peggy Littleton, Bob Schaffer and Marcia Neal voted no. The vote was reversed on a motion to return the case to the Jeffco board, with Republicans voting yes and Democrats voting no. Republican member Randy DeHoff wasn’t present for the vote.

Schaffer, SBE chair, argued that parent interest was a more important factor in granting a charter than the wishes of a government agency such as the school board. Lotus reportedly had more than 230 parent letters of interest in the Jeffco school last year. Jeffco currently has 13 charter schools.

Lotus opened its Aurora school in 2003.  A year ago the Aurora school board conditionally renewed the charter for three years but imposed extra financial reporting requirements on the school. (See Aurora Sentinel story about that decision.)

Last November the St. Vrain Valley school board unanimously rejected an application by Lotus to open a charter school at a church in Longmont.

Go here for links to documents filed by both parties in the Jeffco case.