Posted on Apr 20, 2005 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 05-09
April 20, 2005
Charter Schools

[Note:  Section 302A-1184, HRS, the statute at issue in this opinion, was repealed in 2006. Adopted in 2012, chapter 302D, HRS, governs public charter schools. Sections 302D-12(e) and 302D-25(a), HRS, expressly exempt charter schools and their governing boards from the Sunshine Law, Part I of chapter 92, HRS, and override this opinion’s conclusion that the Sunshine Law applies to charter schools.

Chapter 302D, HRS, does not alter this opinion’s conclusion that the charter schools are agencies subject to the Uniform Information Practices Act (Modified), chapter 92F, HRS.]

The State Auditor asked the OIP to reconsider OIP Opinion Letter No. 03-01 (“03-01”), which concluded that new century charter schools and new century conversion charter schools (collectively “charter schools”) are exempt from the Open Meetings Law, part I, chapter 92, Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”), otherwise known as the Sunshine Law.

Based upon the information that the State Auditor provided, the OIP also reconsidered OIP Opinion Letter No. 03-10 (“03-10”), which concluded that charter schools are also exempt from the public records law, the Uniform Information Practices Act (Modified), chapter 92F, HRS (“UIPA”).

The OIP concluded that the charter schools are subject to both the Sunshine Law and the UIPA. In 03-01, the OIP read section 302A-1184, HRS, as exempting charter schools from compliance with the Sunshine Law. The Attorney General, however, subsequently interpreted section 302A-1184, HRS, which exempts charter schools from “all applicable laws,” to encompass only those laws that apply directly to schools and education. Based upon the Attorney General’s interpretation, the exemption in section 302A-1184, HRS, does not shield charter schools from the Sunshine Law.

As the OIP has found, the local school boards of charter schools (“charter school boards”) are “boards” of the State that are “created” by statute and have “supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power over specific matters.” They also are “required to conduct meetings and to take official actions.” Consequently, charter school boards fit the definition of the term “board” under the Sunshine Law and, therefore, must comply with the Sunshine Law’s requirements.

In addition, charter schools are public schools and are created, funded, and overseen by the State. In light of the Attorney General’s interpretation of section 302A-1184, HRS, as only exempting charter schools from “laws that apply directly to schools and education,” the OIP found that charter schools are “agencies” as defined by the UIPA, and therefore, their records are subject to the UIPA’s disclosure requirements.

The conclusion reached in this letter replaces the conclusions reached in 03-01 and 03-10.

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