The Charter School Act contemplates a charter school having only one sponsor; consequently, when one of the appellant-charter school’s applications for sponsorship was approved by the South Carolina Public Charter School District, the issue of the Charleston County School District’s rejection of another of the school’s applications for sponsorship became moot.
We affirm the Administrative Law Court’s ruling that the school’s appeal of the Charleston County School District’s (CCSD’s) rejection of its application for sponsorship was moot.
The ALC did not err in finding the South Carolina Public Charter School District’s (SCPCSD’s) approval of the school’s application bound the school to operate as outlined in the application and bound SCPCSD to serve as the school’s sponsor when the language of the Charter Schools Act is clear and unambiguous. S.C. Code Ann. § 59-40-40(1) provides that, as used in the Charter Schools Act, a “charter school” is accountable to “the sponsor which grants its charter.” The Charter Schools Act defines “sponsor” as “the [SCPCSD] Board of Trustees, the local school board of trustees in which the charter school is to be located, as provided by law, a public institution of higher learning . . . or an independent institution of higher learning . . . from which the charter school applicant requested its charter and which granted approval for the charter school’s existence.” § 59-40-40(4) Read together, these provisions make clear a charter school created under the Charter Schools Act may only have one sponsor.
The sections that address approval of charter school applications unambiguously dictate that the approval of an application creates a binding agreement between the charter school and sponsor. Because a charter school is limited to one sponsor, the Charter Schools Act clearly prohibits a charter school from simultaneously submitting applications to multiple charter-granting authorities when the approval of an application creates a binding agreement between the charter school and sponsor.
To the extent the option to submit a charter school application to multiple charter granting authorities on the Department of Education’s online application can be construed as an agency interpretation of the Charter Schools Act, we find this interpretation is manifestly contrary to the Charter Schools Act. We acknowledge that the Charter Schools Act is silent concerning multiple applications, but the language of the Charter Schools Act clearly and unambiguously prohibits a charter school from simultaneously submitting applications to multiple charter granting authorities when the approval of an application creates a binding agreement between the charter school and sponsor.
We note that the Department of Education’s regulations (1) provide that a sponsor is the entity that granted approval for the charter school’s existence, (2) use singular language when referring to the application process, and (3) mandate that the charter school and sponsor execute a contract reflecting the provisions contained in the approved charter school application. See Regulation 43-601(I)(C), (II)(A) to (D).
Although S.C. Code Ann. § 59-40-115 provides that a charter school may terminate its contract with a sponsor before the term of the contract expires if both parties agree to the dissolution, the appellant-school had not terminated its sponsorship with SCPCSD at the time the ALC issued its order. Accordingly, we find the ALC did not err in determining the school could not obtain sponsorship from CCSD when it had a then-existing sponsorship with SCPCSD and therefore, an intervening event precluded it from granting the school effectual relief.
Compass Collegiate Academy, Inc. v. Charleston County School District (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-016-23, 12 pp.) (Per Curiam) Appealed from the Administrative Law Court (Harold Funderburk, ALJ) Erik Tison Norton for appellant; Susan Marie Fittipaldi and John Marshall Reagle for respondent. South Carolina Court of Appeals (unpublished)