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LAUSD Candidate Forum: Charter School Oversight

The LAUSD has the highest number of charter schools in the country. How would the candidates regulate these publicly funded private schools?

By Carl J. PetersenPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

For far too long, the charter school industry has overstepped its power in LAUSD and our school board has not conducted the necessary oversight.

– LAUSD Candidate Karla Griego

For decades the Charter School Industry has controlled the LAUSD School Board preventing any meaningful oversight of these publicly funded private schools. The result has been unpaid debt to the taxpayers, the theft of public funds, sudden closures, and a threat to student safety. The balance of the Board changed after the 2022 elections when Dr. Rocio Rivas’ victory in Board District 2 flipped the seat formerly held by Charter School apologist Monica Garcia.

While there were hopes for a radical change in the district's approach to regulation, the new majority took a more conservative approach. Most notably, the issue of inequity in how campus space is shared under PROP 39 has been addressed with great fanfare. However, nothing has been done to remove California Charter School Association (CCSA) staffer José Cole-Gutiérrez as the Director of the Charter School Division even after he was caught lying to the Board. Under Cole-Gutiérrez’s leadership, no school in the last two years has been forced to shut down by the District due to operational deficiencies, failure to achieve academic results, or financial mismanagement.

Despite the lack of radical change, the Charter School Industry complains that it “has never faced headwinds so stiff.” As a result, there were no applications to open new charter schools this school year. The number of charter schools operating in the LAUSD has declined as the industry faces an 11% decline in enrollment. These closures have even impacted larger charter school chains like KIPP SoCal Public (sic) Schools, which is closing three campuses.

The Charter School Industry was built on the premise that competition within education would increase outcomes. Instead, it has harmed neighborhood schools as funding was diverted to schools operating without proper oversight. The promised academic gains failed to materialize.

As its schools fight for survival, the industry now complains about the competition it once heralded. “It’s gone from an atmosphere of collaboration to one of competition,” complained one operator. Public schools affected by the encroachment of charter schools never felt like there was a spirit of collaboration.

Charter Schools will try to reverse the gains in accountability in November’s election by spending millions of dollars to elect candidates supportive of the privatization of public education. With Tanya Ortiz-Frankin already securing re-election, the charters only have to win one of the three undecided elections.

To gauge the candidates’ commitment to meaningful Charter School oversight, they were asked the following questions:

  1. The Charter School Division (CSD) is responsible for ensuring that charter schools authorized by the LAUSD comply with the law. Can this mission be fulfilled if the CSD is staffed with employees who used to work for the California Charter School Association (CCSA)?
  2. Before Russian hackers infiltrated the LAUSD’s computer systems, the public had access to the petitions of every charter school that applied to the district. The links to this information are still on the website but are broken. As a Board Member would you commit to restoring access to this information?
  3. According to the Ed Code, the financial records of Charter Schools are supposed to be audited yearly by an independent accounting firm. As a Board Member would you work to ensure that these yearly audits comply with the law and are truly independent?
  4. Some delinquent charter schools were given payment terms that allowed them to stretch payments for over-allocation fees, which are supposed to be paid immediately, over several years. It does not appear that interest is being added to these balances for the privilege of extending the payment terms. As a Board Member, would you cancel these sweetheart deals and negotiate terms that are more favorable to the District’s students?
  5. As a Board Member will you introduce the proposed “Improving LAUSD Performance as a Regulatory Agency for Charters” resolution and work to ensure its passage?

So far, only Karla Griego in the Board District 5 race has provided answers. Her detailed answers can be found HERE.

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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.

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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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    Carl J. PetersenWritten by Carl J. Petersen

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