December 7, 2021

Carl J. Petersen: Charter Schools Pay Down A Minuscule Amount Of Debt

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Carl Petersen writes about educational shenanigans in the Los Angeles area. This time he’s looking at the vast slice of unpaid debt that charters owe the public school system. 

Just as the LAUSD was shutting down for the Thanksgiving holiday, Jose Cole-Gutierrez’s Charter School Division released its latest summary of the past-due amounts owed by charter schools for overallocation fees. These fees are assessed when charter schools demand more space on public school campuses than they are entitled to based on their actual enrollment. The data shows that only $13,437 was repaid during the previous month. This means that charter schools still owe the students of the LAUSD $13,585,182.

Just two schools were responsible for the payments that were made during the past month. Ocean Charter School paid $3,333, leaving their balance at $1,208,491. Even after paying $10,104, APEX Academy, which still occupies space on the Bernstein High School campus, owes $112,228. Both of these schools appear to have made some kind of payment arrangements with the district as they were also the only ones who made payments during the third quarter of the year.

The payments received in the previous month represent 0.0988% of the total amount that was due from all the delinquent charters. There were 56 charter schools that did not make any payments during this period. Out of the 58 charter schools that are delinquent, 20 have not made any payments at all.

Included in the list of delinquents who did make a payment last month was the Citizens of the World nationwide chain of charter schools. This chain is allowed to continue occupying the campuses of Shirley Elementary, Le Conte Middle School, and Webster Middle School despite owing the students of the LAUSD $1,068,684. Year after year, it has over-estimated the number of students it would serve and taken space from public school students resulting in rooms sitting empty. This hurts the BIPOC communities that Citizens of the World claims to serve.

The Charter School Division is supposed to be the first line of defense for the interests of students, but it is headed by a former staffer from the California Charter School Association. Instead of acting as a regulator, Cole-Gutierrez runs the division as a cheerleader for privatization, using his department as a way to ensure a “robust portfolio of school choices for parents and students”. Under this leadership, not one charter school has been brought to the board for revocation based on non-payment of state-regulated overallocation fees for multiple years.

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