Pretending To Be A Public School Employee
Has LAUSD Candidate Marilyn Koziatek realized that an endless parade of scandals has made the “Charter” label toxic with the general public?
“I work at Granada Hills High School”
- Marilyn Koziatek
As the charter school industry and their supporters have poured millions of dollars into Los Angeles Unified School District elections, they have wielded significant influence over the school board. As a result, the Charter School Division, which is supposed to provide oversight over the operations of charter schools, is headed by Jose Cole-Gutiérrez, a former staff member of the California Charter School Association. These schools have even been allowed to write their own rules regarding their oversight.
Predictably, scam artists have used this lack of oversight to divert education funding from children to their own pockets. These are just some of the financial scandals that have occurred in Los Angeles charter schools during the last few years:
- El Camino Real Charter High School’s former Executive Director, David Fehte, was forced to resign after charging personal expenses on his school credit card. A more recent Notice to Cure suggests that the school has still not taken the necessary steps to prevent the additional theft of public funds.
- Janis Bucknor, the Executive Director of Community Preparatory Academy, pleaded guilty to embezzling $3.1 million in school funds that she spent on her personal use”.
- Vielka McFarlane, the founder of the Celerity Educational Group pleaded guilty to misspending about $2.5 million in public funds.
Charter schools in Los Angeles have also been accused of disregarding their obligation to protect the health and safety of their students:
- Granada Hills Charter High School received a Notice of Violation that detailed the way construction projects on their campus endangered “the Health and Safety of Students, Staff and Other Individuals.” A lawsuit by a former employee also alleged that the school had performed repair work without ensuring that asbestos would not contaminate the facilities.
- North Valley Military Institute was sued by former students alleging that they were sexually assaulted by a staff member who lived with the school’s executive director.
- Internal documents showed that the CCSA considered it a priority to keep its schools exempt from the Field Act, a law that has prevented California students from dying in earthquakes for almost a century.
Other revelations have shown that charter schools are failing at their mission to improve education for all students:
- The State of Denial report released by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) detailed how charter schools serve a lesser percentage of students with special education needs than their public school counterparts.
- A list of low-performing schools in Los Angeles included 22 charter schools.
- When the LAUSD tried to improve accessibility to school buildings for children with special education needs, they were sued by the CCSA. LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin gave the district’s opponent confidential information in those court proceedings.
In addition to these scandals, an LAUSD Board Member supported by the charter school industry, Ref Rodriguez, pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy that hid the true source of almost $25,000 in campaign donations from the public. The charter school chain where Rodriguez had worked prior to serving on the board alleged that he had transferred “more than $285,000 in public funds from the charter school network he co-founded to two businesses with which he had personal ties.”
Perhaps someone from the CCSA marketing department has warned LAUSD School Board candidate Marilyn Koziatek that the cumulative effect of these scandals has made the “charter” label toxic. While Koziatek works for an independent charter school, her web site identifies her as a “public education professional.” In her public appearances, she changes the name of her employer to eliminate the word “charter.” Her campaign materials have also attempted to deceive an unsuspecting public by misstating the name of this school.
The charter school industry is run by shrewd businessmen who have invested millions into Koziatek’s campaign because they see the possibility of a great return. Eliminating Scott Schmerelson from the LAUSD School Board will allow them to expand unimpeded by oversight. The public will lose millions as funds meant for education are diverted to the pockets of shady operators. Koziatek will look the other way because that is what she is being paid to do.
LAUSD students are counting on you to stop this takeover of real public schools. Voting centers are open now.
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.