McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP's (MLA) cross-practice National Charter Schools team is a thought-leader in this growing field, representing public charter school clients at the federal, national, state and local level. Our team is comprised of attorneys and policy advisors with the experience and resources to assist clients with their facilities, employment, financing, operational, tax-exemption, litigation and appellate, fundraising, legislation and government affairs objectives.
Public Policy and Government Affairs
The MLA Public Policy and Government Affairs team provides full-service strategic guidance, advocacy support and political law compliance for charter schools and charter school organizations and associations at the national, federal, and state and local levels of government. At the national level, MLA coordinates multi-state government affairs efforts designed to leverage client objectives in multiple jurisdictions. In Washington, DC, MLA’s federal government affairs team ensures clients have a voice in front of Congress and the Administration and builds champions among third party validators and public policy institutions. At the state and local level, our team helps design, advocate for and monitor legislation and educates key decision makers, including operators, trade associations, regulators, legislators and community groups to facilitate the expansion of charter-related activities.
Because charter school expansion implicates not only education policy but also broader policy issues such as pension reform, tax and infrastructure considerations, we are able to seamlessly bridge charter school-related challenges by offering a full suite of complementary government affairs services together with legal capabilities to address all facets of charter laws in multiple jurisdictions.
- Act as a national coordinating counsel to a leading national education management organization (EMO) in several states across the country.
- Represent a state charter school association on policy, public finance and legal aspects across the state.
- Worked with a state legislature to pass critical legislation creating a constitutional amendment to restore state authority to create charter schools and then engaged in state-wide campaign to pass the amendment.
- Sponsor and present at annual national charter schools association conference.
MLA’s Corporate practice is a leading innovator in developing and implementing facility financing solutions for charter schools, including through the use of municipal bonds and other complex financing structures. Because our Public Finance attorneys understand the unique issues facing charter schools and are also experts in all aspects of public finance, they are well-equipped to assist charter schools in navigating through these complex financing structures. Our Public Finance attorneys regularly serve as bond counsel, disclosure counsel, and charter school counsel, as well as counsel to underwriters and institutional investors involved in these financings.
- We are proud to have participated in the first charter school facility financings successfully completed in the State of Georgia, including financings for the Kennesaw Charter Science and Math Academy, the DeKalb Academy of Technology and Environment, and the International Academy of Smyrna.
School districts are often not used to working on real estate issues with third-party users of their properties. Our Real Estate practice attorneys work to identify critical real estate situations for charter schools and craft solutions that advance the interests of those charter schools. The MLA Real Estate team utilizes its deep background in commercial real estate and finance to provide facilities use arrangements, complicated financing structures, New Market Tax Credit transactions, leasing negotiations, and land use and zoning matters that affect multiple charter schools.
Serving as counsel to the first California charter school to take advantage of the federal tax credit program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009, firm real estate attorneys have been at the forefront of serving the charter school mission for many years. In addition, Dennis Davison serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of CentroNia, which manages the DC Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, DC. As such he is deeply involved in oversight of all aspects of finances, facilities and operations.
MLA attorneys are also familiar with the issues involved in acquisition of property, leasing of buildings from commercial landlords and dealing with other real estate issues such as covenants, restrictions, use restrictions and zoning requirements.
- Represent charter schools as borrower’s counsel in New Market Tax Credit transactions.
- Represented a charter school in San Diego in securing $12 million in qualified school construction bonds, the first California charter school to take advantage of the federal tax credit program, which was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
- Represented a charter school in complex land use issues.
- Serving as Board Chairman of CentroNia, firm attorney manages development of policies, procedures and program guidelines; lease negotiations of all space; monthly, quarterly and annual reports to federal, state and city regulators, including the DC Charter School Board; budget development and fiscal/audit oversight; fundraising; metrics reviews; strategic planning; interaction and representational work with government and non-government officials and representatives; monitoring of all legal aspects of non-profit, educational and charter school operations including possible mergers and acquisition of assets for the DC Bilingual Public Charter School.
- Represented a charter school industry association in negotiating a master use agreement form for the use of school district property by various charter schools. This involved blending the contract approach of the district with the possessory interest features of a lease, such as insurance, indemnification, premises liability default remedies, and repair and maintenance. The issues were especially difficult when the charter school was co-located with a district school.
Litigation and Appellate
Similar to public schools in the heavily-regulated education arena, charter schools must comply with complex laws governing numerous aspects of schools’ daily operations. Drawing on our extensive experience with complex and high-profile litigation, MLA's Litigation and Appellate practice attorneys have experience litigating on behalf of charter schools and counseling charter schools, their non-profit boards, and educational management organizations on a range of matters.
- Represented three commission charter schools in litigation before trial court and Georgia Supreme Court testing constitutionality of Georgia's charter school law that created independent state-level charter authorizer. Gwinnett County School District v. Cox, 289 Ga. 265 (2011).
- Counseling charter schools in petitions to local boards of education and appeals to county and State boards of education for approval and renewal of charters.
- Advising clients on constitutionality of proposed legislation and assist in reviewing and drafting legislation.
- Counseling charter school concerning and dealing with school district in application for space pursuant to California's Proposition 39.
- Counsel client regarding teachers’ participation in state retirement pension plan.
- Advising client on legal authority of charter school authorizer’s ability to modify charter petition requirements.
- Representing California Charter Schools Association as a party and as amicus curiae in the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court.
Labor and Employment
Our approach to labor relations is to put the emphasis on "relations." Our Labor and Employment team builds close working relationships with our clients in order to help them develop strategies for dealing with both union and non-union environments. Stable labor-management relations require trust, so we strive to uphold our clients' credibility in the workplace as well as our own. Employers and labor respect our firm for the integrity we bring to the process and the results we achieve.
We regularly handle a full range of labor relations matters, including:
- Union organizing drives — campaigns and elections;
- Unfair labor practice charges;
- Complex administrative, regulatory and litigation challenges -- including navigation of jurisdictional disputes between various federal, state and local government agencies;
- Collective bargaining and contract administration; and
- Union issues arising out of mergers and acquisitions, successorship, and business modifications or shutdowns.
By working closely with our clients and learning about their businesses in-depth, we are better able to anticipate and prevent labor and employment disputes. By offering seminars and training on an array of workplace legal issues, we help our clients learn to better protect themselves against disputes.
MLA attorneys also provide up-to-date analysis, resources and commentary on developments in traditional labor law at their blog, Labor Relations Today (http://www.laborrelationstoday.com/).
Employment Litigation and Advocacy
Our employment litigation takes many forms — from routine discharge and discipline disputes, to complex state and federal wage-and-hour claims, to protection of crucial competitive data, and handling employees who “switch sides” to a competitor. MLA attorneys practice in federal and state courts, federal and state administrative agencies, arbitration, mediation, and other dispute resolution settings. Our attorneys are skilled in assisting our clients with:
- Employment-related class action lawsuits;
- Employment contract disputes;
- ERISA claims;
- Race, disability, sex, sexual orientation, age, and all other types of discrimination claims;
- Sexual and other types of harassment claims;
- Wage claims, including minimum wage and overtime pay collective actions;
- Whistleblower and other retaliation claims; and
- Wrongful termination, demotion, and discipline claims.
Regulatory and Administrative
Beyond formal litigation, our attorneys are also experienced in handling investigations and claims brought by or through the EEOC, the OFCCP, the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, and other federal and state agencies. Our philosophy in handling these matters is straightforward: aggressively represent our clients while maintaining a strong sense of reasonableness with the regulators.
MLA’s Political Law team helps charter school clients legally and ethically interact with government at the highest federal and state levels on a range of political, election law, and ethics issues, including campaign finance, issue advocacy, lobby disclosure, and pay-to-play. With recent amendments to the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 and heightened requirements for disclosure, ethics training, and press scrutiny, MLA’s team supports clients with their registration, compliance, and reporting requirements, as well as helping to establish internal compliance and training programs for campaign activities, ethics compliance, and disclosure obligations.
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