This morning we are celebrating Gregory V. Moser, Esq., and Retired Partner, Procopio Cory Hargreaves & Savitch LLP, as CharterFolk Extraordinaire. We are also happy to recognize today’s columnist Julie Ashby Umansky, Esq., and the California Charter Schools Association (“CCSA”) Vice President, Legal Advocacy, and Executive Director, Charter Schools Legal Defense Fund.
Greg Moser, Igniting Sparks That Burn Bright
Greg reached out to me in November to let me know about his upcoming retirement. It meant that he would no longer be serving on CCSA’s Legal Advisory Committee of which he was a founding member back in 2005. As I sat with that news, I reflected on how he generated my nearly 25-year career with charter schools. As an associate at his predecessor law firm, I worked almost exclusively for him and his public agency clients—joint powers authorities, health care districts, sewer and water districts, and school districts. And then charter schools, and my world changed.
It began for Greg in the mid-nineties when one of his school district clients asked for help with a charter school they were going to authorize and run (this was before charters were allowed to be nonprofit corporations). With that experience under his belt, I think he was hooked on the new legal challenge of creating start-up public agencies while contributing to public education reform. He influenced the formation of countless new schools that are still thriving today. (His son even attended a charter.) Many of these schools are unique in their origin stories, but they sought Greg’s advice when needing a creative legal solution. When the traditional school district attorneys were saying “no”, Greg could find the “yes”.
In the late nineties he represented the San Diego Business Roundtable’s Charter School Consortium which held periodic meetings for San Diego County charter schools to share best practices and develop advocacy strategies. He handed me the prime assignment of representing the Consortium in the first effort statewide to collectively draft and negotiate a favorable charter school authorizing policy. (The lead negotiator for San Diego Unified was none other than Jed Wallace.) This kind of collective work continues today throughout the state.
The genesis for CCSA’s Charter Schools Legal Defense Fund (“LDF”) work sprang partly from early litigation efforts we experienced. For example, Greg and I represented a charter school in Riverside County whose county superintendent of schools refused to accept the charter’s average daily attendance (ADA) certification for funding. Having lost at the trial court we considered options, including appealing the decision. But funding an appeal was not in the school’s budget, and philanthropy support for litigation waned after the trial court expense. At that time in 1999, no foundation had a dedicated fund focused on defending charter schools and building favorable precedent. The school had to drop its case. That experience still fuels my desire to maintain the LDF to ensure that charters and their students are supported when a lawsuit is a viable strategy for protecting their rights.
Greg’s thinking influenced how schools statewide approached the frequent question posed: “Does this law apply to charters?” Always focused on melding the policy arguments for charter schools with principles of statutory construction, he approached the question with a disciplined analysis. For example, in 2011, he argued in a law journal article that charter schools were not and should not be subject to Government Code section 1090 (“GC 1090”). He cited the policies behind the Charter Schools Act supporting the engagement of all stakeholders such as “teachers, parents and community members.” He dissected the application language noting that GC 1090 on its face didn’t apply to school districts, they were subjected to it only because of Education Code section 35233. Given that charter schools were exempt from laws applicable to school districts under the Charter Schools Act’s “mega-waiver”, GC 1090 did not apply. He expanded on that analysis for other laws as well in CCSA’s response to an opinion request to the California Attorney General. As CCSA battled repeated and recurring efforts to impose GC 1090 and other laws on charters from the early 2000s up to the adoption of SB 126, he steadfastly advocated for exemptions that would allow for stakeholders to remain engaged as governing board members. CCSA relied heavily on his research in guiding our transparency work with CMO leaders in the last decade.
His years representing other public agencies influenced his thinking and advice on how a nonprofit corporation operating as a charter school or operating multiple charters should be viewed within the realm of other public agency laws. CCSA engaged him in efforts with the California Law Revision Commission when it was tasked with determining whether the protections of the Government Claims Act should apply to charter schools. Although the Legislature at that time refused to take up the issue again, we are armed for the next effort because of the legal and policy research Greg submitted on our behalf.
In the fledgling year of the LDF, Greg was instrumental in our strategy to attempt to minimize the negative impacts of the Wells v. One2One and Knapp v. Palisades Charter High School decisions. He supported various litigation efforts for CCSA and his school clients. In 2004 his client, Renaissance Charter Academy, filed one of the first lawsuits against Los Angeles Unified School District helping to shape the direction of the LDF’s future litigation against other school districts. His work for the American Indian Model School resulted in overturning the Oakland Unified School District’s revocation of their charter back in 2014 and created a favorable precedential legal decision. He served on the National Alliance’s National Litigation Counsel in its early years as it built out its capacity to serve the growing number of schools across the country.
His experience representing self-insurance pools for health care districts, cities, and fire districts, contributed to the creation of Charter SAFE, the nonprofit risk-sharing pool focused on addressing the shared risks of California charter schools. Originally formed and operated by CCSA in 2004, Charter SAFE remains a reliable source for risk management for most of the schools in California.
Greg’s support for charter public schools has been steadfast and unwavering. All of us in the movement have benefited from his great legal mind in one way or another. I know that I’ll try to keep those fires burning.
CharterFolk X is intended to celebrate the extraordinary people who are the heart of the charter school movement. When we are in the thick of it, when our work is most taxing, it is even more important to celebrate the extraordinary people who are the heart of the charter school movement.
If you have ideas for people who should be added to the CharterFolk X pantheon, please email me!
Enjoy the rest of the week, CharterFolk!