Asleep at the Switch?

In response to this very unexpected action, the district has assembled a team to provide support to students and families as they transition during this difficult time, just one month after the start of the district’s traditional school year”.

-LAUSD

The charter industry has a propensity for manipulating data to meet their propaganda needs. For example, a recent press release stated that “more than 2,000 families [had] marched in support of charter schools”. However, the first sentence of the release told a completely different story. Instead of families showing support of these private schools operating with public funds, “more than 2,000 charter school teachers, students, families, supporters, and local representatives joined together” had participated in the march. Unless families had been prevented from sending more than one representative to the march, the headline was clearly misleading.

Given the recent headlines, it is unclear what the California Charter School Association (CCSA) was actually celebrating. In May, the Los Angeles Daily News released the first in a series of articles detailing the “financial shenanigans” at El Camino Charter Real Charter High School. In July the California Attorney General’s office “reached an $8.5-million settlement with [K12 Inc., that] it had accused of false advertising, misleading parents and inadequate instruction.” Then the NAACP called “for [a] national moratorium on charters” in part because they “have contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system”. A report released in August by the ACLU and Public Advocates found that “one in five charter schools ‘illegally’ screens applicants”. Then less than a month into the school year, “City Charter Schools suddenly halted its high school program...leaving more than 100 students at the independent charter school scrambling to find alternatives”.

As “the largest district charter school authorizer in the nation, with about 250 independent and affiliated charter schools serving over 130,000 students”, the LAUSD has failed to do its part in protecting students and taxpayers from these scandals. The District’s Charter School Division, lead by a former CCSA staffer, has neglected its regulatory functions as it treats charters as “valuable partners” rather than the competitors described by the charter law. Its reputation as a toothless enforcer of the law is so great that in the case of El Camino, only a hired forensic accountant can look into the charges detailed in the October LAUSD Notice to Cure after the press ran a story about these charges in May.

Perhaps the most flagrant example of the CSD’s ineptitude is the fact that it allowed City High School to open. To cover its costs, the charter needed to enroll 150 students but on the first day ”only 125 showed up and more dropped out in the first few weeks”. By the time it shut down, “116 students [were] scrambling to make other arrangements.” The facility that it had rented “had problems, including the lack of a working air conditioning, which would take weeks, and be costly, to fix”. Somehow the CSD was unaware of these conditions and found the charter’s closure to be “unexpected”.

For the sake of the students and taxpayers, the District needs to do a better job of performing its regulatory functions. Some of the steps that it needs to take can be found in my proposed resolution Improving LAUSD Performance as a Regulatory Agency for the Charters that I will introduce upon my election to the LAUSD School Board. It is the third in a series meant to move the School Board election into a discussion about solutions.


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