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What Is The School District Hiding?

Are charter schools in Los Angeles also affected by declining enrollment? The LAUSD Charter School Division will not release the information.

By Carl J. PetersenPublished 3 months ago 4 min read
The gap between actual enrollment and the enrollment specified in charter petitions increased in each of the past three years.

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

– James Madison

As part of its oversight responsibilities, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) Charter School Division (CSD) is supposed to collect enrollment information from the charter schools under its jurisdiction. Every year the department summarizes this information in a “3-Year Analysis of Independent Charter School Norm Enrollment Versus Enrollment per Approved Petition.”

The information contained in this report is vital to anyone who is affected by charter schools. As an example, parents considering enrolling their child in one of these publicly funded private schools need access to this data to help determine the financial viability of the organization as an enrollment that is drastically lower than what is anticipated in the charter document can indicate impending financial problems, possibly resulting in the closure of the school in the middle of a term. Also, public school parents fighting off PROP-39 requests can use this information to check if the invading charter school is requesting more space than they are actually entitled to receive.

Unfortunately, the LAUSD does not make the charter school enrollment report readily accessible to the public. Therefore, one District watchdog filed a California Public Records Act (PRA) request for the latest version of this document in an email dated February 17, 2023. This was immediately acknowledged by the District with boilerplate language that said “the District will make a determination within 10 days as to whether or not a request is seeking records that are publicly disclosable and, if so, to provide the estimated date that the records will be made available.” It also noted that “there is no requirement for a public agency to actually supply the records within 10 days of receiving a request, unless the requested records are readily available.” [emphasis mine] Considering the fact that this document is prepared on an annual basis, it appeared that the turnaround for the request would be very quick.

While the requirement to respond within ten days is set by law, the LAUSD did not send its request until March 7, nine days past the deadline. This email stated that the District was extending the date for responding, citing the following specified circumstances:

  • The District needs to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request.

This document should have been generated in the Charter School Division at Beaudry, not in a far-flung local office in frontier regions of the District. It is a simple endeavor to ask the staff if this document was updated this year.

  • The District needs to search for, collect and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records that are demanded in the request.

The request was not voluminous, it was for one distinct document, which is regularly updated on a yearly basis.

  • The District may need to consult, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein.

Under the California PRA, public agencies cannot withhold data simply because releasing it is strategically inconvenient. The documents requested do not fall into any of the categories that permit the LAUSD to maintain confidentiality like those that are covered under attorney-client privilege or violate the privacy of individuals.

  • The District may need to compile data.

The PRA did not request for the creation of documents, it asked for reports that should already exist.

The Charter School Division has a long history of protecting the charter schools that they are supposed to be regulating. Led by a former staffer from the California Charter School Association (CCSA), the department has forgiven debt owed by charter schools to Los Angeles students without explanation and allowed charter schools to open without the resources to continue operations through the school year. The division’s delay in releasing basic information about each school’s current enrollment represents another failure in ensuring basic accountability. The school board majority elected with the support of those who back public education needs to replace the leadership at the Charter School Division and ensure that it meets its oversight responsibilities.


Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for public education, particularly for students with special education needs. He was elected to the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and is the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him “a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.” For links to his blogs, please visit Opinions are his own.

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About the Creator

Carl J. Petersen

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with SpEd needs and public education. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Opinions are his own.

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