California School Accountability Report: LA charter leader found guilty

 

Here’s our pick of recent news about the ongoing effort to privatize public education in California. Want these straight to your email inbox? Sign up here.

 

When neighborhood schools are forced to share with charter schools, many students suffer. California’s Prop 39, the bizarre law forcing neighborhood public schools to give space to privately operated charter schools, strikes again. As Leonardo Castañeda reports, a proposed charter school is suing the San Jose school district for space—for the second time. The Mercury News

LA charter leader found guilty. The founder of Los Angeles charter school network Celerity Educational Group has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to misappropriate and embezzle public funds.

As Anna Phillips reports, Vielka McFarlane used the network’s credit card to purchase expensive meals, high-end salon visits, limousine trips, and luxury hotel stays with no evidence of paying the money back. Meanwhile, some Celerity teachers reported feeling forced to lean on students to fundraise for basic school supplies. As we found last year, total alleged and confirmed fraud and waste in California’s charter schools has reached over $149 million—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Los Angeles Times

Conflicts of interest in Chino Valley. The Daily Bulletin‘s Beau Yarbroughreports that the San Bernardino County school board had multiple conflicts of interest when it voted last month to approve a charter school. “In an 81-page letter sent to the county school board, and obtained by the Southern California News Group through the use of the California Public Records Act, Chino Valley Unified covers the basis it had for denying Sycamore Academy a charter in three unsuccessful attempts in the past. But the Dec. 18 letter also says that two county board members – Hardy Brown II and Ken Larson – had conflicts of interest regarding Sycamore Academy and should have recused themselves from that board’s Dec. 3 vote.” The Daily Bulletin

One charter school dominated last year’s headlines. A charter school in Los Altos was “the biggest news generator throughout 2018,” reports the local newspaper, the Mountain View Voice. “That critical board vote came on Dec. 20—Bullis Mountain View declined to push the date until after the holiday break—but nobody in the room seemed particularly happy. The district’s leadership thoroughly criticized the charter school organization and cast doubt on its stated goals to serve low-income children, launching what could prove to be a tense relationship.” Mountain View Voice

Charter schools are more likely to ignore special education students, study finds. According to education researchers Peter Bergman and Isaac McFarlin, charter schools are less likely to respond to application inquiries from parents of students with severe disabilities. Arianna Prothero reports that the researchers sent emails from fictitious parents to nearly 6,500 charter and traditional public schools in 29 states and the District of Columbia, about half of all charter schools in the country. These charter schools were 5.8 percentage points less likely to respond to a query claiming to be from a parent of a student with severe disabilities. Education Week

Betsy DeVos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates want your kid’s school to close. Students at charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated, are two and a half times more likely to have their school close than those at traditional, neighborhood schools. But charter school closures aren’t just shockingly routine. They’re also a selling point for the deep-pocketed voices aiming to privatize public education. In the Public Interest