Above the Law?

The LAUSD Board will be voting on whether they support a package of anti-charter laws that would threaten our schools’ funding, flexibility to implement the programs best for our students, and our ability to continue serving our families.

-Granada Hills Charter High School

Real estate records show that on March 17, 2005, a “Bayer, Brian” whose address was “11141 Tampa Ave” purchased a property at 10600 Zelzah Ave., across the street from Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS). According to tax records, this house was still owned by “Bayer, Brian” on August 20, 2006. However, on December 11, 2008, a Grant Deed was filed stating that there was “an error in the name of the grantee in the original deed recorded on March 17, 2005.” At that point, GHCHS became the registered owner of the property.

If it is true that Brian Bauer, aka Brian Bayer, was accidentally recorded as the owner of the house on Zelzah, it is unclear why it took three and a half years to correct the mistake. The Governing Board is responsible for the $440,000 spent on the property and should have immediately noticed that the deed to the property had “accidentally” been given to their Executive Director. The charter is subject to a yearly “independent” audit, but these auditors also seemed to miss this major problem. As the authorizer for GHCHS, the LAUSD is responsible for oversight and conducts annual reviews. For three and a half years they also missed the problem.

This is just one example of how the systems in place for charter oversight were not enough to protect the taxpayers or the students at GHCHS. Those responsible for ensuring accountability had also failed to notice as the administration misused funds belonging to the student body, illegally charged students for graduation caps and gowns, and improperly punished students whose parents had exercised their right to opt them out of standardized testing. It probably also explains why the charter describes an attempt to increase oversight as “an extreme anti-charter resolution.”

The resolution that has drawn the ire of GHCHS is entitled “Accountability and Transparency for Equity and Access at Charter Schools” and will be considered by the LAUSD School Board on Tuesday. While there are many steps the District needs to take in order to improve its performance as a regulatory agency, this resolution doesn’t take any real action. Instead, it simply expresses support for three bills that are before the California State Legislature and “directs the Office of Government Relations to employ its advocacy resources in support of AB 1360, AB 1478, and S[B 808].

While GHCHS does not specifically detail specific complaints about these proposed laws, it does state that it will “threaten our schools’ funding, flexibility to implement the programs best for our students, and our ability to continue serving our families.” Apparently, they do not want to “ensure equal access to interested pupils at charter schools and prohibit practices that discourage enrollment or disproportionately push out segments of already enrolled pupils.” This seems to contradict the charter industries’ self-described mission of providing choice to parents. They also do not explain why they think that they will be unable to run a school in an environment where “charter school governance is transparent” and “monitoring and oversight of charter schools are conducted to protect the public interest.” Apparently, GHCHS only wants to be a “public school” in name (and funding sources) only.

Granada’s administration does single out SB-808 and its provisions that would “eliminate the appeals process through Los Angeles County and the State of California.” This opposition is not surprising considering Executive Director Brian Bauer chairs the State’s Advisory Commission on Charter Schools. Under Bauer, this commission overlooked the fact that both the LAUSD and the Los Angeles County Board of Education had found that one charter, International Studies Language Academy, provided "an unsound educational program" and recommended the charter for approval by the state. The State Board of Education also overturned both levels of local authorities and approved charters run by the Celerity Educational Group. The LAUSD and county were later vindicated when the FBI raided the charter management group. The State Board has also been caught neglecting their regulatory functions by failing to perform any oversight visits for a charter under its jurisdiction.

GHCHS does not show the text of the email that it is asking its parents to sign, but it allegedly lets LAUSD Board Members know that “we expect our local elected officials to support high-quality schools.” If they expect their charter to be included among those schools deserving of support, they should spend less time avoiding proper oversight and more proving that it is not needed. Avoiding any more scandals would be a good place to start.