Petition cites violations of public records laws
WASHINGTON – The National Coalition of Public School Options (PSO), a coalition of parents whose children attend public charter schools, filed a petition in the First Judicial District in Carson City against the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority (Authority) for multiple violations of the Nevada Public Records Act (NPRA). PSO requested documents to better understand the relationship between the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), a state vendor, and the Authority.
- Through the NPRA, PSO has sought to obtain communications between Authority Executive Director Patrick Gavin and a state vendor, NACSA.
- The first two requests were made on May 4, 2018. The third request was made on June 6, 2018. A fourth request was made on September 28, 2018.
- Though the Authority responded to one of PSO’s requests, the Authority’s responses to the remaining public records requests have been woefully incomplete.
- While the Authority claims that it has no communications with NACSA during the time period covered by the first request, public records requests in other state emails have been produced that show communication between NACSA and Mr. Gavin during the requested time period.
- PSO’s ability to fully understand the scope of the relationship between Mr. Gavin and NACSA has been severely hampered by the Authority’s violations of the NPRA and its failure to produce requested documents.
- PSO has been forced to go to court so the Authority will meet its obligations under the NPRA.
NACSA works with state charter authorities around the country, including in Nevada, to implement charter school policies and its ‘accountability framework.’
PSO also sent a letter to the Nevada Attorney General requesting a formal investigation into potential violations of Nevada law by NACSA and Mr. Gavin.
- In 2017, Authority Executive Director Patrick Gavin pushed for the passage of Assembly Bill 49, which would exempt the Authority from the Nevada Administrative Procedures Act (APA). This bill undermined the right of a parent to participate at a public forum concerning the fate of their student’s public charter school. Whenever a decision is being made about the future of any public school, fair notice must be given to impacted parents and allow them chance to testify about it.
- At one Authority meeting, Mr. Gavin asked the Authority board to exempt itself from the APA but the board sided with parents and rejected his request. That meeting drew hundreds of charter school families who were outraged by Mr. Gavin’s request.
- In 2016, the Authority scheduled a last-minute hearing about the fate of some of Nevada’s online public charter schools on Good Friday – a clear attempt to hold the hearing without having input from parents and students impacted by their decision. However, many parents and students cancelled holiday plans and attended the hearing, sharing seven hours of testimony about why online public charter schools work for their family.
- Mr. Gavin has also mocked the families and students who attend online public charter schools, calling their experiences “sad pathetic stories that tug at peoples heartstrings.”
STATEMENT FROM PSO PRESIDENT TILLIE ELVRUM:
“The actions of Patrick Gavin and the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority have long been concerning to parents and it’s why we have been sounding the alarm bells for some time. Their refusal to turn over public records is even more troubling. Parents want to ensure policymakers are doing what’s best for students and not be subject to outside influence. The creation and implementation of education policies should focus on the needs of individual students, not outside organizations doing business with the state.”