Archives for category: California

The public schools in Livermore, California, got a big surprise when more than 500 students fled the district’s two charter schools to return to the public schools.

On the first day of school, more than 500 new students swarmed into Livermore public schools, the vast majority fleeing the city’s two embattled charter schools in light of a litany of accusations ranging from fiscal mismanagement to criminal wrongdoing.

The Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District got nearly double the number of new students it was expecting as parents a few weeks ago began pulling their children out of Livermore Valley Charter School and Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory.

The company that runs the charter schools, the Tri-Valley Learning Corp., is facing allegations of financial mismanagement; illegally charging foreign exchange students tuition and transferring them to a school in Stockton against their will; an investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office for potential criminal charges; and, most recently, hiring a principal who made an online reference to empathizing with mass shooters.

The charges prompted state Superintendent of Education Tom Torlakson to meet privately with charter school parents and school district officials Thursday.

“It’s the most serious set of allegations against a charter that I’ve ever seen,” Torlakson said.

Yes, students withdrew from the Livermore charter schools and returned to the public schools, and no wonder: the place is a mess.

Mercedes Schneider tells the story here.

It recruited 60 foreign students, charged them $31,300 each for tuition and boarding (which is illegal for a “public” school), reassigned two of them to another charter school in the same chain without the permission of their parents, and had more problems.

The district attorney is investigating the charter operator.

John Oliver was right.

Mercedes Schneider posts here the dissents of the three judges who wanted to rehear the case. The majority of four denied the rehearing, agreeing with the lower court.

This just in:

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the California Supreme Court’s decision to reject the plaintiffs’ petition for review in Vergara v. California.

“I am relieved by the court’s decision declining an appeal of the unanimous California Court of Appeal ruling upholding California educators’ due process rights. The billionaire-funded attack, from its inception, tried to pit our children against their teachers—people who make a difference in our children’s lives every day—rather than understand and solve the real problems ailing public education. Now that this chapter is closed, we must embrace our shared responsibility to help disadvantaged kids by supporting them so they can reach their full potential. While that starts with teachers, it also means providing programs and services that engage students and address their well-being.

“I hope this decision closes the book on the flawed and divisive argument that links educators’ workplace protections with student disadvantage. Instead, as the expert evidence clearly showed—and the Court of Appeal carefully reasoned—it was the discretionary decisions of some administrators, rather than the statutes themselves, that contributed to the problems cited by the plaintiffs.

“It is now well past time that we move beyond damaging lawsuits like Vergara that demonize educators and begin to work with teachers to address the real issues caused by the massive underinvestment in public education in this country. The state of California, like many others, remains in the throes of a serious teacher shortage. We need to hire, support and retain the best teachers, not pit parents against educators in a pointless blame game that does nothing to help disadvantaged students pursue their dreams.”

– See more at:

In a big win for teachers and their unions, the California Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from a lower court ruling. The vote was 4-3. See the report in the LA School Report (controlled by Campbell Brown and The 74) here.

The initial decision had over-ruled state laws that protected teacher tenure and seniority. That decision by Judge Rolf Treu was overturned on appeal by a unanimous three-judge court. The state supreme court let stand the last decision.

Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times reports:

In a major victory for teachers unions, the California Supreme Court has let stand a ruling that preserves traditional teacher job protections such as tenure and seniority-based layoffs.

In refusing to hear the case, the state’s high court sided not only with unions, but also the state of California and others, who contended that these job protections are both constitutional and reasonable.

The case was being closely watched across the country as a bellwether on whether courts could be used to invalidate employment rights of teachers on the grounds that they violate the rights of students.

Attorneys for a group of nine students had argued that making it easier to fire bad teachers would improve academic performance. They also claimed that speedier teacher dismissals would narrow the achievement gap that separates white, Asian and wealthier students from their lower income, black and Latino peers.

There are states that have no teacher tenure, but no evidence was introduced to demonstrate that those states have higher academic performance by low-income, black and Latino students or smaller achievement gaps.

StudentsMatter, funded by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and cheered on by the corporate reform movement, spent millions of dollars fighting tenure laws, and forced the unions to do the same.

We have read earlier ( see here and here) about the principal of El Camino Real Charter High School. The school is very popular and academically successful. But its principal played fast and loose with the school’s credit card. While he was moonlighting as a talent scout for a professional basketball team, he flew around the country and charged hotels, first-class air tickets, and meals to his credit card. According to stories in the Los Angeles Daily News, the principal charged about $100,000 to the school’s credit card.

A Daily News investigation published in May found that El Camino’s Executive Director David Fehte had made numerous lavish charges to his school-issued American Express card, including $15,500 at Monty’s Prime Steaks & Seafood in 2014 and 2015, and several personal expenses, such as first-class airfare and luxury hotel rooms. Fehte’s charges also included more than $6,700 for a four-day trip to the Michigan headquarters of Herman Miller, the designer furniture manufacturer, for himself and two other school employees when there was a showroom 25 miles from the school. Fehte has denied doing anything wrong.

My favorite credit card charge: that four-day trip to the Herman Miller showroom when there was a showroom only 25 miles from the school.

Kind of embarrassing. If he were in a public school, he would have been brought up on charges and fired.

The school, which converted to an independent charter in 2011, would have until Sept. 23 to remedy all the alleged violations if the notice is issued, district officials said. If it fails to do so, the LAUSD board could issue a “notice of intent to revoke” the school’s charter and then hold another public hearing. If the board ultimately approves revocation, the school would be forced to cease operations pending an appeal.

The school has been given “multiple opportunities” to review and improve its policies but “has failed to implement such improvements to this day,” leading to “an inability to determine how public funds are being used and identify specific instances of their use for personal expenses,” according to a district staff report on the alleged violations.

Now the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District is giving serious thought to revoking the school’s charter. It seems the principal, David Fehte, was not the only one who used charter funds for personal expenses.

Potential management issues involving El Camino came to light last year. In its latest documents, L.A. Unified accuses El Camino of demonstrating “an inability to determine how public funds are being used and identify specific instances of their use for personal expenses,” adding that “fatal flaws in judgment … call into serious question the organization’s ability to successfully implement the charter in accordance with applicable law and district requirements.”

According to L.A. Unified, a sampling of 425 credit card expenses by five El Camino employees, including Fehte, revealed that “countless expenses were incurred without adherence to any uniform procedure, and without verification of the necessary details.”

The school system also accused El Camino’s board of improperly conducting public meetings by, for example, taking action on items that were not listed on the agendas to be voted on.

In a series of articles, the Los Angeles Daily News reported on Fehte’s spending for such things as wine, first-class air travel and pricey hotel rooms.

Fehte has denied wrongdoing and said he inadvertently charged about $6,100 in personal expenses on his school credit card. He said he reimbursed the school as soon as these charges were pointed out to him.

Some of the expenses were incurred while Fehte was moonlighting as a college basketball talent scout for the San Antonio Spurs, according to the Daily News.

Public school parents might feel some resentment, because while Mr. Fehte was jetting around the country in first class, their own schools were underfunded.

They will just have to get over it. Charter schools are special, and they get special treatment. Especially in California, where the charter school lobby is rich and powerful and underwrites the campaigns of legislators and school board members.

If you want to learn more about charter scofflaws, read this:

Carl J. Petersen is a parent of children in the Los Angeles school district. In this paper, he reviews the claim that schools get better if they compete. And he wonders, if competition improves schools, why does the Los Angeles school board insist on collaborating with those who want to put them out of business?

Petersen says that LAUSD has thrown in the towel. Instead of competing to show they are better than charters, they bow to the charters and throw the fight. Of course, it is true that the charter lobby, the California Charter Schools Association, is the richest lobby in the state. And it is true that CCSA and its allies will pour millions into the next school board race. Once in a while, a grassroots candidate can beat the CCSA millions, but it is not a good idea to count on it. CCSA is not willing to fight fair. It not only claims its schools are better, but it wants to buy every seat on the LAUSD school board so as to own the competition.

The charter lobby acts like Walmart. It doesn’t want competition. It wants a monopoly.

Julian Vasquez Heilig reports on his blog that the ACLU in Southern California has released a report finding that 20% or more of the state’s charter schools are breaking state and federal laws.

This is very likely the tip of the iceberg and signals that the state should launch a full investigation of illegal activities in charter schools.

Here is the full report.

Will the state dare to investigate privately managed schools that operate with little or no supervision? Will they dare to cross the state’s most powerful lobby, the California Charter Schools Association?

The Silicon Valley Flex Academy in Santa Clara County, California, recently won a five-year renewal of its contract, from 2016 to 2021, but will not open this fall due to “fiscal unsustainability.”

A Morgan Hill charter school is closing its doors due to a terminated contract and financial troubles, which means almost 250 students will have to enroll in new schools before the start of the academic year, Santa Clara County education officials said Wednesday.

Silicon Valley Flex Academy at 610 Jarvis Drive served 240 students between grades six to 12 and opened in 2011 under a countywide charter, county education officials said.

In November, Santa Clara County’s Board of Education had renewed the academy’s charter for another five years from 2016 to 2021, according to the county office.

On Monday night, the academy’s board told the county the academy would close because of “fiscal unsustainability” after its service provider, K12, cut their contract, county officials said.

Classes for the new school year were set to begin on Aug. 11, according to the school’s website.

The county office is working with the charter school’s board along with Morgan Hill Unified School District and its Superintendent Steve Betando to register the students for the 2016-17 academic year.

If you love disruption, watch the charter industry in California, where schools open and close with frequency, almost as frequently as in Florida.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris reached a settlement of $168.6 million with mega-virtual charter K12 Inc. This settlement reflects the good investigative reporting of Jessica Calefati of the San Jose Mercury News, whose investigative reporting led to Harris’ review of K12’s finances and practices.

There are two more investigations underway: one by the California State Department of Education and the other by the State Controller. Now that virtual charters have been discredited by studies and thrown under the bus by the rest of the charter industry, this aspect of the industry may finally be on the skids.

“California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Friday the state Department of Justice has reached a $168.5 million settlement with for-profit online charter school operator K12 Inc. over an array of alleged violations of false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws.

“The settlement comes almost three months after the Bay Area News Group published a two-part investigative series on the publicly-traded Virginia company, which runs a network of profitable but low-performing online charter schools serving about 15,000 students across the state.

“Harris’ office found that K12 and the “virtual” academies it operates across the state used deceptive advertising to mislead parents about students’ academic progress, parent satisfaction and their graduates’ eligibility for University of California and California State University admission.

“The Attorney General’s office also found that K12 and its affiliated schools collected more state funding from the California Department of Education than they were entitled to by submitting inflated student attendance data and that the company improperly coerced the non-profit schools it operates to sign unfavorable contracts that put them in a deep financial hole.”

Politico reports that K12 Inc. disagrees with the characterization of the settlement:

– Speaking of charter schools, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said Friday that virtual charter school operator K12 Inc. will pay $168.5 million to settle [] alleged violations of the state’s false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws: . But K12 pushed back on the settlement amount – preferring not to include $160 million in financial relief that Harris’ office says will be provided to certain schools that K12 manages. Instead, K12 CEO Stuart Udell said the company will only pay $2.5 million to settle the case, and another $6 million for Harris’ investigative costs. Udell said his company admitted no wrongdoing. “The Attorney General’s claim of $168.5 million in today’s announcement is flat wrong,” Udell said. “Despite our full cooperation throughout the process, the Office of the Attorney General grossly mischaracterized the value of the settlement, just as it did with regard to the issues it investigated.”

– The settlement is another black eye for the virtual charter industry, which just last month had three reform-minded groups calling for it to be improved, or else problems such as low graduation rates will “overshadow the positive impacts this model currently has on some students.” [] More from Kimberly Hefling:

California has more than 1,000 charter schools. When Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was in charge, he filled the state school board with charter advocates, even though students in charters were only 5% of the enrollment. Today, the California Charter School Association is one of the richest, most powerful lobbies in the state. They don’t lobby for all children. They lobby only for charter expansion and continued deregulation.

Because the State Education Department lacks the staff to supervise so many charters, each of which is akin to an independent district, the charters regularly produce stories of graft and corruption. The exposes roll out almost daily of theft of public dollars. The CCSA thinks that is just fine. They oppose any regulation or oversight of these unaccountable schools.

Here is your chance to join with others who are defending public education in California. Learn about the all-day seminar on July 30, 2016, at Richmond High School in Richmond, California.

See the flyer with information about the event here.