The LAUSD Turns A Blind Eye as Charters Cherry-Pick Their Students

It is time to answer his question.

- Scott Schmerelson, LAUSD Board Member

As I have reported previously, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) has items on the enrollment page of their website that appear to violate the law and clearly violate their charter. During the past six months, I have been unable to get anyone at the school, the LAUSD Charter School Division or the State Department of Education to take the appropriate action to bring the school into compliance. On Tuesday, June 13, 2017, I brought this issue to the attention of the LAUSD School Board with the following public comment:

Included in the information that I am giving to you is a page from the Granada Hills Charter High School charter which states:

Granada Hills Charter shall not request or require submission of a student’s IEP, 504 Plan, or any other record or related information prior to admission, participation in any admissions or attendance lottery, or pre-enrollment event or process, or as a condition of admission or enrollment.

Seems pretty straight forward. Yet I went onto their website again today and right on there it says under the documents that a parent has to bring when they engage in the pre-enrollment process that “if  applicable, the most recent 504 or IEP.” And under those documents, it also states that “if all mandatory documents are not provided at the time of the appoint the student will not be enrolled. You will need to make a new enrollment appointment.

This has been on their page for months now. I have brought it to the attention of the Charter School Division and it is still there as of today. I filed a complaint with the school, they denied that there is a problem. It is still there.

This is definitely an example of cherry-picking. What it does is allow the charter to dissuade students with extra needs from attending their school and leaves that responsibility to our district. There is a documented example of the effect that their requirement has on enrollment and that is 1.7 miles away at Northridge Academy High School. The special education for Granada Hills is 6% of the population. At Northridge Academy, it is 14%. That is a huge difference.

If you look at the enrollment page there are other items that they are requesting. That gives us results like:

  • English learners: at Granada Hills 3%. At Northridge Academy 8%.

  • Homeless students: there are zero at Granada. With a smaller population, Northridge has seven.

  • Free and reduced price lunch: Granada Hills 49%, Northridge Academy 65%.

These have an effect on the students at Northridge Academy because resources have to go to provide for these extra needs. We can’t just keep on giving away not only students to charters but allowing them to pick which students they are going to enroll and leave the District with more expensive-to-educate students.

Thank you.

At the conclusion of my comments, the Board called up the Director of the Charter School Division for questions. At this time Mr. Cole-Gutiérrez stated that “his charge on this one is the first time I’ve heard of it.” It is unclear why he would make this statement as he was included in the email that issued my complaint to GHCHS on December 21, 2016. Alex Gomez, who is assigned to GHCHS, and Robert Perry are two other Charter School Division employees who received this email. It should also be noted that all three employees were included in a chain of emails that were the result of GHCHS’ late response to the complaint. As proof that the correct email address was used, the LAUSD’s email system even generated a notice of Mr. Cole-Gutiérrez’ absence from the office for an email related to a similar issue at El Camino Real Charter High School. These provide multiple contradictions to the Director’s statement before the Board and provide further proof of the Charter School Division’s inability to provide proper oversight. It is time for the Board to take action to protect the District’s students.

I’m concerned about the bigger picture, not just that specific school because if Mr. Petersen can find that, are there others doing it? Are we looking for that?

- Dr. George McKenna, LAUSD Board Member