Monday, October 25, 2010


by smf for 4LAKids

I received a phone call this AM from Caprice Young -- the CEO of ICEF Charter schools. Caprice and I go back aways, if we are not friends we are colleagues in the shared mission of providing quality public education to all kids. In different time we have driven neighborhoods looking for sites for traditional schools in Hollywood and charter schools in Northeast LA.

Caprice called to take offense of some of my 4LAKids writing - and in particular my comments upon John Fensterwald’s piece in the Educated Guess  re: the near financial meltdown of ICEF.

Monday, October 18, 2010: L.A. CHARTER GROUP LAYS OFF ONE-SIXTH OF STAFF: ICEF squeezed by state budget cuts and unwise borrowing + comments

I wrote:

smf: This piece has some excellent follow-on commentary, none of it rabid one-way-or-the-other. I invite all readers to read it here. That said – and ignoring ICEF’s well-respected academic successes -  I’ve done a bit of public school math on the virtual back of the ubiquitous hypothetical envelope:

  • The billionaires who rode to ICEF’s rescue brought $2.5 million to the table.

  • Caprice Young [in the article] says they need to raise $9 million to retire their debt.

  • So ICEF needs $11.5 million to continue serving 4,500 students – or $2555.55 per student after eliminating one in six employees.

  • If ICEF expenses are $2500+ per student more than their income I fail to see how this program can possibly be sustainable. The most aggressive white-middle-class parent-booster-club fundraising machine school only goes for $1000-$1500 per kid.

  • I recall from earlier conversations with Caprice Young that the rule of thumb  optimal/minimum-size for a sustainable charter school is about 400 students. ICEF is averaging 300.

While this shows that this particular charter school model is probably not viable without The Daddy Warbucks Foundation's deep pockets it also returns us all to the overlying/overwhelming question as to whether public school funding is adequate for any school in California.

[I peeked ito the Teacher’s Edition of the textbook. The answer is NO.]

Of course, now that I read this again - and especially after having it read to me in an exasperated tone of voice - I wish I had not been quite so glib. My ersatz math was not intended to be The ICEF Budget - it was a question, not the answer.

Caprice was not upset by my math as much as she would've preferred I use her math ...and she even gave me a little credit for remembering her rule-of-thumb business model correctly; part of her recovery strategy is to bring ICEF into conformity with that rule.

Caprice - having convinced donors to some up with the cash to bail out ICEF resents me making them into “the Daddy Warbucks Foundation" - fair enough. I mean not to belittle her efforts in raising money or their commitment to save the schools and help educate children who have been historically under served.

I am going to quote Caprice's October 1st open letter to the community from October 1:

“I need to tell you that the financial situation is serious.  Over the past several years, ICEF has overspent its budget in ways that have led to financial deficits. With the state’s budget crisis and the delays in the funding, as well as the facilities expenses ICEF has had to endure, it has become extraordinarily difficult for ICEF to resolve the budget deficits of the past year. The fact is, because ICEF’s leadership has cared so deeply about our students, it has avoided taking actions in the past that would have balanced the budget.

“Now, we will be forced to make some deep and difficult cuts to be able to live within our means during these tough economic times.  I will be working closely with Corri Tate Ravare, ICEF’s president, to ensure that these funding cuts are done to minimize the impact on our classrooms.  In the last 72 hours, we have raised $2.6 million from people who care deeply about ICEF’s students, including the board of directors, and we’re continuing our efforts to raise money side-by-side with the leadership team of ICEF.

“I have had several conversations over the past two days with Superintendent Ray Cortines of the Los Angeles Unified School District and Blair Taylor of The Urban League, as well as several other local elected officials, all of whom are actively working to find solutions for ICEF.

“There’s no question there will be staff reductions.  We are working to make sure that anyone who gets laid off is considered for a job in neighboring charter schools, so that their talents can continue to support student learning.

“I understand how all the recent events may have created some confusion and fear about the future, but I want to assure you that our children are the highest priority, and the quality of education they receive will not be compromised. We’re going to move quickly, but we’re going to be doing our best to communicate with all staff members and parents both electronically and through other forms of communication to keep everyone informed and engaged.” 

(The above is pulled from context, but the entire letter is available here: and in Spanish here:


ICEF 2010-2011 Budget and Cash Flow

See attached the budget and cash flow.

ICEF Public Schools Restructuring Plan

See attached plan for ICEF restructuring.  A revised plan will be published after the ICEF Board of Trustees has the opportunity to consider the options.

●●smf again: My original intended point was contained in my closing line and my conclusion remains the same: The current funding model for public education from Sacramento is inadequate to sustain either the charter model or the traditional school model - and a competition between the two as to which is more or less sustainable is ridiculous.

Whether we are waiting for Superman or Billionaires or a Federal Bailout or Race to the Top or the Lottery Money; Bake Sale/Candy Drive/Gift Wrap sale - or our number in the lottery .....I fear it isn't going to be worth the wait.

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