The Orange County School of the Arts is one of the most popular, most sought after, and most elite charter schools in the nation. Now it is locked in a battle with the local board of Educatuon about its admission policies.

Its students are whiter and more affluent than the surrounding community.

The Santa Ana Unified School District had made demands for change.

Last fall, OCSA applied to renew its charter with SAUSD, something state rules require must be done every five years. The district staff responded with a scathing 37-page report that found:

The schools “admission/enrollment policies and practices have encouraged applications from high achieving and well-resourced students and discouraged applications from those in the under-represented protected classifications.”

The numbers of “Hispanic/Latino, English Learners” and low-income students were so small at OCSA, it was impossible to meaningfully compare achievement to other district schools.

In sharp contrast to other middle and high schools in Santa Ana, OCSA reported no students who were homeless.

Mandatory meetings where school representatives set expectations that parents make donations of more than $4,000 a year to cover the costs of teaching the arts.

Since that report came out, KPCC/LAist got access to details Santa Ana Unified investigators did not uncover, including the current “Parent Funding Agreement” distributed at mandatory meetings.

While district officials openly say that OCSA is a high-quality school, they also say its policies exclude local, mostly Latino students while welcoming a wealthier, whiter student body that isn’t reflective of Santa Ana.

For example, while apparently struggling to find qualified local disadvantaged students, OCSA has admitted students from other counties, states and occasionally even other countries…. The board decided not to go as far as denial — instead, board members went with another recommended course: Vote to renew OCSA’s charter on the condition that the school work with the district to correct the alleged violations.

OCSA reacted swiftly, and fiercely. The school’s founder said the pushback from the district is payback over a lawsuit OCSA filed against the district last year over special education funding (that’s a whole other act in this drama — we’ll get to that). He also said there was nothing for OCSA to correct.

So the school stopped trying to work it out with the district, and started looking for another oversight agency.

Now, the issue is in the hands of the Orange County Board of Education, the body charged with taking up appeals of charters denied by their local authorizers. They don’t have long to make a decision — OCSA’s current charter expires on June 30.