Wednesday, December 01, 2010


--Howard Blume | L.A. Times/LA NOW |

November 30, 2010 |  7:08 pm - Financially struggling charter schools have secured a commitment for low-interest loans as part of a wide-ranging pact with the Los Angeles school system.

The agreement, approved Tuesday by the Board of Education, also sets up a fledgling though uneasy political alliance to raise new funds. Under it, charter schools and the Los Angeles Unified School District would campaign together to raise tax revenue--and then share the proceeds.

Charter schools are independently managed, free from many restrictions that govern traditional schools. About 10% of L.A. Unified students attend charters.

The agreement on low-interest loans would be groundbreaking in California, said Jed Wallace, head of the California Charter Schools Assn. The loans “are not going to cost the district anything, but yet it could help save the charter schools of Los Angeles.”

The loans would be especially timely because of the ongoing state budget crisis, particularly as the state has delayed substantial payments to schools for months.

The practice has caused a cash flow crisis for schools, putting an estimated 180 vulnerable charter schools across the state in danger of insolvency, said Caprice Young, the chief executive of ICEF Public Schools. The problems at ICEF, which operates 15 local schools, also stem from high debt and overspending, issues that resulted in the hiring of Young, a former L.A. school board president and business executive.  Cash-flow loans have been costing ICEF and other charters more than 15% in interest, she said.

L.A. Unified can get such loans for less than 2%, officials said. And if the district manages these funds carefully, even that cost can be entirely offset.

Under the Quality Schools Compact approved Tuesday, L.A. Unified also pledges to share the proceeds of future voter-approved parcel taxes with charter schools. In exchange, charter schools are being asked to use their political muscle to help persuade voters. Charter schools opposed a local parcel tax in June; that measure failed.

The agreement also calls for developing common academic expectations for all schools and a common teacher evaluation process, among charter and traditional schools.

But charters and the district have persisting conflicts that already are coloring this new collaboration. In an interview Tuesday, Supt. Ramon Cortines threatened to withhold the needed loans unless charter schools abandon a lawsuit against the district over the sharing of classroom space.

And board member Steve Zimmer voted against the pact, citing widespread concerns that charter schools don’t serve enough disabled students and also don’t pay their share of these costs. The board vote was 5-2, with Zimmer and Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte voting no.

1 comment:

Sonja said...

I posted this earlier on the LA Times site:

Until Charters take all children, they should not be allowed to participate in this loan program. I've collected data for over 7 years showing that Charters do not take Moderate to severely disabled students nor do they enroll English Language Learners at the same percentages as typical public schools. With block grant funding, they get a portion of special education funding along with each student (through the Average Daily Attendance ADA funding model) yet many do not have students who need services. There is less in the general fund for LAUSD students who are not "encouraged" to enroll (we parents call it "counseling out"). What few students are enrolled are easier to "manage" and in need of no or fewer services. A typical grade school provides 14 to 21 services where Charters average 0 to 7. They're either not providing service to students who need it or just aren't enrolling students who need more specialized services.

Why do you suppose they claim better test scores? They don't enroll students who would bring the averages down. They cannot share "best practices" with the school district when their "best practices" include discrimination and violation of a student's civil rights.

ICEF should have been allowed to fail. They have some of the lowest enrollment of students with disabilities. If they cannot manage their money - they should close. LAUSD has ignored my warnings for many years about the dangers of handing out Charters like candy without proper oversight (at one point the former head of the Charter Offices was a previous employee of the California Charter Schools Association and openly hostile toward the Division of Special Education - refusing to work with them). It was like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. It created animosity and now many LAUSD charters are considering leaving the LAUSD Special Education Local Planning Area(SELPA)at the strong urging of the California Charter Schools Association.

The CCSA has created a Special Education Joint Powers Agreement that charges $5 per ADA for schools to be involved - this in addition to the regular $5 per ADA membership in the CCSA. It's a business and the CCSA makes money off the backs of our special needs students. Money passes through three different hands before a child sees service at a school:
1. CCSA dues
2. El Dorado Charter SELPA "administrates" (they provide no services to LAUSD Charter students) and "delegates" services through
3. Southwest SELPA which has fewer service providers or specialists than LAUSD.

LAUSD trains other SELPAs in California. The myth of receiving "better" service outside LAUSD that has been generated by CCSA and believed by our LAUSD Charter schools is sad and unfortunate.

Many parents of special needs students at these Charter Schools who are planning to leave LAUSD's SELPA have no idea that it's happening. The governing board of each school decided without full disclosure or public meetings to discuss the pro/con of such an important change of service.

Charters need to stop violating the rights of students with disabilities before they are allowed to "partner" with The District in regards to any fund-sharing propositions.

Posted by: Sonja | December 01, 2010 at 09:08 AM

Wanted to add another thought about Charters: Many depend on parent involvement, thus foster youth are not represented in these schools. How can a student in foster care enroll without the support of their foster parent? Have Charters an outreach program? I haven't heard of any. These students are also among those not "desired" by Charters because they expect the parent involvement (some even requiring contracts before enrollment stating as much). Another reason why they should not have public funding if not taking all children.

Posted by: Sonja | December 01, 2010 at 09:47 AM