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Another One Bites The Dust

Who will answer for the wasted education funds as Valiente College Preparatory Charter School announces its closure?

By Carl J. PetersenPublished about a month ago 3 min read
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You took me for everything that I had

And kicked me out on my own

– Queen

As Los Angeles students prepared to return to school at the end of the Summer break, families at the North Valley Military Institute (NVMI) were in for a rude awakening. The charter school’s administration had rejected the LAUSD’s offer of space under PROP-39 the previous April but continued to tell parents that a new campus would be ready in time to start classes. Ignoring the NMVI’s impending collapse, the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s (LACOE) regulators did nothing to ensure parents were warned to make alternative arrangements. They even allowed the school to hold its orientation session for new students. When Mark Ryan announced the school would close one week into the school year, families were left scrambling, their children behind their peers in their new schools.

To the credit of Valiente College Preparatory Charter School’s administrators, the families at that school are being given a lot more warning about its impending closure. However, LACOE should still explain why it permitted this school to operate in a failing state for many years, draining education funds away from schools serving the same neighborhoods.

Like NVMI, Valiente is under the wings of LACOE because the LAUSD took the unusual step of rejecting its charter. Ignoring the concerns of a school district controlled by the Charter School Industry, the County overturned its decision. As a result, the County became responsible for the charter school’s oversight.

Valiente blames the closure on “the impact of declining demand” citing “lower birth rates and gentrification leading to residential displacement.” The school does not mention the over-saturation of charter schools in Board District 5, where it operates. Even with known demographic changes, the charter school promised gradual growth in its charter but became one of the many Los Angeles charter schools that did not meet its enrollment targets last year. Instead of showing growth, it has the same number of students as it did during the 2016 - 2017 school year and is operating at 40% of capacity. Why did LACOE not intervene when enrollment first started to decline?

Valiente is closing because of low enrollment but still tries to maintain an illusion of exclusivity.

Because LACOE overruled the LAUSD and allowed a failing charter school to continue operating, public funds were allowed to continue flowing. Unlike public schools, charters are entitled to be reimbursed by the government for obtaining facilities. The SB740 program provides “grants to charter schools to assist with facilities’ rent and lease costs” and provided these privately operated schools $184 million during the 2022-23 school year. The State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants Program provided “funding for rent, lease, PROP 39 pro-rata payments, mortgage, construction costs, or debt service.” Valiente took money from both programs:

Despite having been reimbursed $220,525.56 towards the fees assessed to obtain classroom space under PROP-39, Valiente still owed the LAUSD $14,722 the last time the Charter School Division updated the public on past-due PROP-39 overallocation fees. This does not include the $88,077 the Charter School Division forgave from the amount owed without authorization from the School Board. Dr. Rocio Rivas and Scott Schmerelson have both spoken against this gift to the Charter School Industry but have not taken action to collect this debt. Any opportunity to do so will be lost when the charter school closes its doors.

Unfortunately, flooding this charter school with money did not drive results. According to the U.S. News and World Report, Valiente was “well below expectations” in reading and math performance. Forget about being prepared for college, these students were not even equipped to move on to the next grade level. Only 12% of its students scored at or above the proficient level for math and 22% scored at or above that level for reading. Yet, LACOE allowed them to continue operating.

Test scores for Valiente, neighboring schools, the LAUSD, and the state

The advanced notice of closure will hopefully give the bureaucrats at LACOE a better opportunity to ensure an orderly closedown than what occurred at NVMI. They should pay particular attention to the bonuses and severance packages given to staff as the school was careening toward failure. The “strategic partnership” negotiated with LA’s Promise Fund must also be investigated, especially how it now gives the private entity control of personal information like transcripts of students. After failing the students and taxpayers for all of these years, it is the least LACOE could do.

_______________________

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for public education, particularly for students with special education needs, who serves as the Education Chair for the Northridge East Neighborhood Council. 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 www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.

education
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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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  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    Good for you, writing this piece. I don't live there. Your summary at the end is great!

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