September 28, 2021

Carl J. Petersen: Will A Lack Of Oversight Land School District In Court?

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Carl Petersen keeps an eye on the Los Angeles school district. Here he notes that the charter school division’s enforcement of oversight rules “falls between inconsistent and non-existent.” How long before LAUSD finds itself in trouble? Here he offers them some advice.

Before the board ducks behind closed doors to discuss anticipated ligation with your team of lawyers, I thought I would take the opportunity to suggest a couple of topics for you to discuss. Maybe out of view of the public, your counsel can set you on the right path so that education funds can be used to educate students rather than pay court costs.

The first thing you should discuss is the district’s responsibility to hold charter schools responsible not only to the law but to the rules that this board has implemented. I am very concerned that these are not being enforced uniformly, opening the LAUSD to lawsuits by charter school organizations who have done what they were supposed to while others were allowed to ignore their responsibilities.

One example of this is the over $12 million that is owed to the district as of July 13, 2021, for over-allocation penalties. While schools like Girls Athletic Leadership SchoolMagnolia Science Academy, and Prepa Tec Los Angeles High have paid their bills, Celerity Charter Schools and their successors owe the district $771,428.28. I guess they were too busy paying for their former Executive Director’s chauffeured limo rides to and from school to worry about paying their debt to our district’s students. KIPP can afford to build a school on top of a toxic waste site, but cannot pay their debt of $44,087.85. The Citizens of the World chain of charter schools owes the district almost $1 million but was still given more rooms at Shirley Avenue Elementary School. Are the schools that paid what is owed to the district just suckers?

The Charter School Division’s lack of enforcement also opens the district to legal claims from parents of the 80% of students who attend LAUSD public schools. Once again, Citizens of the World provides the example, prompting a side question: Is this nationwide chain of publicly funded private schools following any rules?

In the charter petition for their latest franchise, Citizens of the World specified the intersection of Sherman Way and Ranchito Avenue as the center point of the community they would serve. The Charter School Division’s Director, José Cole-Gutiérrez, has gone before this board and defined a “community” as having a three-mile radius. This definition was ignored when his department allowed the school to open up outside this three-mile boundary in Valley Village, a neighborhood that was not named in their charter petition.

In emails responding to the concerns of public school parents, Cole-Gutiérrez has redefined “community” to include the entire East San Fernando Valley. This is an area of neighborhoods that is vastly different, both demographically and socioeconomically. Furthermore, this area was not included in the original description of the service area as Colfax Elementary School was not one of the schools listed as being affected even though it is located less than a mile from the campus of Citizens of the World. Even though the petitioner is required to “consider the existing District and charter schools operating within the…three-mile radius”, Dixie Canyon Elementary School was also not included.

And there’s more. Read the full piece here.

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