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Brannberg v. Colorado State Board of Education.

2021 COA 132. No. 20CA0641.  Charter Schools Act—Appeal Rights—Judicial Review.

October 28, 2021

Plaintiffs Brannberg and her proposed charter school, John Dewey Institute, submitted charter school applications to the Douglas County School District RE-1 and the Colorado State Board of Education (state board) (collectively, School Boards). The applications were denied, and plaintiffs brought claims against School Boards under the Colorado Administrative Procedure Act. School Boards moved to dismiss, and the district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

On appeal, plaintiffs contended that the district court erred by concluding that the Charter Schools Act precludes judicial review of first-appeal state board decisions. The Charter Schools Act allows individuals or groups to apply to a local school board to create a charter. In the event of an adverse decision, applicants may appeal the local board’s decision to the state board. When the initial appeal of the local board’s decision occurs, CRS § 22-30.5-108(3)(a) instructs the state board to either affirm or remand. If the local board on remand again renders a decision adverse to the applicant, the applicant may take a second appeal to the state board. Under subsection 108(3)(d), the state board decision in the second appeal is final and not subject to appeal. However, the appeal-preclusion language does not explicitly or by necessary implication apply to state board decisions rendered after a first appeal. Subsection 108(3)(d) thus does not revoke courts’ subject matter jurisdiction to review such decisions. Here, the district court erroneously dismissed plaintiff’s case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction by reasoning that subsection § 108(3)(d) barred judicial review of all state board charter application decisions.

The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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