Neighborhood Council Expresses Concern About Over-Due Bills and Fraud
The Northridge East Neighborhood Council requests that the City Of Los Angeles assist the LAUSD in solving PROP-39 co-location problems.
“The NENC is concerned about the harm being caused to LAUSD students by charter schools improperly using the Proposition 39 co-location process and urge the City of Los Angeles to do everything possible to assist the LAUSD in recouping funds owed to them and to identify fraud.”
- Northridge East Neighborhood Council
Under Proposition 39, charter schools in California have the right to demand space on public school campuses. The amount of space that they receive is based on the number of students that the charter claims have a “meaningful interest” in attending the charter school during the following academic year. The district must then spend bond funds preparing the space and turn it over to the charter school in time for them to start the new school year.
In the event that a charter school requests more space than it actually needs, state law specifies a formula to determine a penalty that must be paid. This is meant to compensate the district for the space lost for use by public school students and the costs borne by districts to prepare space that was not needed.
As shown in a spreadsheet prepared by the district, the LAUSD has sent invoices totaling $14,253,674.28 to cover over-allocation penalties. Of this amount, only $2,817,905.27 had been paid as of December 16, 2020, leaving a balance due of $11,435,769.01. As an example, the New Heights Charter School has been sent invoices totaling $1,046,783.96 covering four years of over-allocations. None of this has been paid and at a recent LAUSD Board meeting the founder and Executive Director of the school stated that she was “not going to comply and pay”.
It appears that one of the reasons that charter schools have been subjected to such high penalties is that they have included children on their list of prospective students who did not have a “meaningful interest” in attending their schools. For example, the principal at one of the Citizens of the World charter schools posted a message on Facebook that asked parents to put their children’s name on the list but assured them that doing so would “not impact your family’s plans for what school you would like to attend or currently attend.” The process was referred to as “a fun game schools get to play each year.”
Over the past four years, Citizens of the World charter schools have been billed $1,052,428.70 in over-allocation fees. As of December 16, 2020, they had a balance due of $955,737.12.
On December 16, 2020, the Northridge East Neighborhood Council (NENC) expressed concern about the harm being caused to LAUSD students by charter schools improperly using the Proposition 39 co-location process. The board voted unanimously to urge the City of Los Angeles to do everything possible to assist the LAUSD in recouping funds owed to them and to identify fraud. This request was made in a letter sent to the Health, Education, Neighborhoods, Parks, Arts, and River (HENPAR) Committee.
In the aftermath of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the LAUSD is expected to face difficult times fiscally in the next couple of years. This problem is going to be exacerbated because of the United States Senate refusing to include aid for local governments into the new stimulus bill. The students of the district can not afford to lose the $11,435,769.01 owed to them by the Los Angeles charter school industry. All neighborhood councils should be demanding that pressure be applied to force payment and end fraud associated with the PROP-39 program.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.