United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, et al., Appellants
District of Columbia, et al., Appellees
November 5, 2018
from the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia (No. 1:14-cv-01293)
P. Dunbar argued the cause for appellants. With him on the
brief were Carl J. Nichols and Thomas C. Kost.
Lederstein, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the
Attorney General for the District of Columbia, argued the
cause for appellees. With him on the briefs were Karl A.
Racine, Attorney General, Loren L. AliKhan, Solicitor
General, and Caroline S. Van Zile, Deputy Solicitor General.
R. Hoellen and Lauren R.S. Mendonsa were on the brief for
amicus curiae Council of the District of Columbia in support
E. Warin, Osvaldo Vazquez, Marcus Gadson, and Jonathan Smith
were on the brief for amici curiae Community Members and
Organizations in support of defendants-appellees.
Before: Henderson, Srinivasan and Millett, Circuit Judges.
Srinivasan, Circuit Judge.
1996, Congress enacted the School Reform Act, which
established parallel systems of traditional public schools
and charter schools in the District of Columbia. The Act
requires the District to fund the operating expenses of
public and charter schools on a uniform, per-student basis.
In this case, the D.C. Association of Chartered Public
Schools contends that the District's school funding
practices inadequately fund charter schools. The district
court rejected the Association's claims. We conclude,
though, that the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear
Constitution's District Clause grants Congress the power
"[t]o exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases
whatsoever, over [the] District [of Columbia]." U.S.
Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 17. Pursuant to that Clause,
Congress can delegate "legislative power" to the
District. District of Columbia v. John R. Thompson
Co., 346 U.S. 100, 109 (1953). Congress did so in the
District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental
Reorganization Act, Pub. L. No. 93-198, 87 Stat. 774 (1973)
(codified as amended at D.C. Code § 1-201.01 et
seq.)-also known as the Home Rule Act, or HRA-which
sought to "relieve Congress of the burden of legislating
upon essentially local District matters," id.
however, limited the District's power to legislate in
certain respects. Of most relevance for our purposes,
Congress barred the District from amending or repealing an
Act of Congress that "is not restricted in its
application exclusively in or to the District."
Id. § 602(a)(3).
1996, Congress enacted the School Reform Act, Pub. L. No.
104-134, 110 Stat. 1321-107 (1996), which authorized the
creation of charter schools in the District. The Act
addresses the annual operating budgets for both traditional
public schools and charter schools. It provides that the
District "shall establish . . . a formula to determine
the amount of . . . the annual payment to the Board of
Education for the operating expenses of the District of
Columbia public schools . . . [and] the annual payment to
each public charter school for [its] operating
expenses." Id. § 2401(b)(1). The
"amount of the annual payment" for each school
"shall be calculated by multiplying a uniform dollar
amount . . . [by] the number of students" enrolled at
the school. Id. § 2401(b)(2).
District's uniform per-student funding level for both
traditional public and charter schools is currently $10, 658.
See D.C. Code § 38-2903. But the District
allocates certain additional funding to traditional public
schools above the per-pupil amount (including for maintenance
of facilities and for teacher pensions). The District also
applies the per-pupil formula to traditional public schools
and charter schools in a slightly different way: the District
makes one annual payment to traditional public schools based
on the prior year's enrollment, see D.C. Code
§ 38-2906(a), whereas for charter schools, the ...