Means, Motive, and Opportunity: Forcing a School Board to Hold a School Accountable to Their Charter
“Charter schools may not enact admissions requirements or other barriers to enrollment and must admit all students who apply, just as traditional public schools cannot turn away students.”
On Tuesday, August 23, 2017, I made a third presentation to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board about the enrollment practices of Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) and the Charter Schools Division’s lack of enforcement of the school’s charter. The following are a transcript of my remarks:
I came before this Board in June to show you what I had found out about Granada Hills Charter High School and their enrollment practices. At that time, the Charter School Division was instructed to look into the matter and get back to me. The letter that I received in response is, to be polite, disappointing. This is included in the packet that I have provided to you.
Basically, this letter says that Granada is allowed to state on their enrollment page that they are requesting the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) as long as they say it is voluntary. This directly contradicts the Charter School Division’s own memo to charter schools, which I have also provided. This states: “Requesting a copy of a student’s IEP or information contained in a student’s IEP during the pre-admission stage creates an inference…that the charter school may be using this information to ‘counsel out’ or otherwise discourage students with disabilities from seeking admission”
Also included in the package that I have given to you is a print out of the enrollment page as it existed yesterday. As you can see, it still requests the IEP. It states that it is voluntary, but the request is still made. Granada also requests some other documents that according to the CSD’s own memo, aren’t supposed to be asked for.
I went further and went to the online form, for which you need a user ID. This says: “504 and IEP documents are not required to enroll. However, providing these documents will assist GHCHS in providing a continuity of services.” The second page where you actually fill out the information has the same request.
I have given you again a copy of their charter. Boiler plate language in the charters states: “Granada Hills Charter shall not request or require submission of a student’s IEP, 504 Plan, or any other record or related information prior to admission” (emphasis mine) It is clear that they are in violation of the charter and for the Charter School Division to just overlook this is unconscionable.
Again, I have provided you with the demographics at Granada. Just 6% of their student population receives special education services. The state average is 11.5%. Neighboring schools have much higher percentages.
There is an effect on the School District. The way that special education funding is given to the schools is that the Federal government provides it based on the total population not the number of students in special ed. The State of California also provides funding in the same way. Therefore, the charters are encouraged financially to accept as few special education students as possible and the District is forced to make up for that deficit.
You’ll see that there are other violations of the charter that the Charter School Division did not look into, including the makeup of the Governing Board. It is supposed to include Teachers, classified staff, and administrators on the Board. Their Board does not have this representation.
Unfortunately, my presentation was met with silence by the Board. Unlike my past two presentations, comments were not made nor was the CSD called upon to answer questions. Like all charters, GHCHS operates its own admissions process and, therefore, has the means to discriminate against students with special education needs. Since the extra costs of educating these students will affect the school’s bottom line, they have the motive to discriminate. The fact that the percentage of their student population with special needs is almost half the state average and considerably less than neighboring public schools shows that they had the opportunity to engage in this discrimination. Enough proof has been presented to meet the requirements of a courtroom procedural but the LAUSD still seems uninterested.
As noted in my presentation, allowing charters to engage in these discriminatory practices increases the District’s special education costs considerably. Yet, even as they consider increasing class sizes in LAUSD schools to lessen budget deficits, they refuse to take real action. It is time for the public to act.
Today, I presented a request under Article 3, Section 35145.5. of the California Education Code for a proposed resolution specifying actions to be taken by the District to rectify these enrollment violations by GHCHS. It also includes measures that seek to reimburse the District for costs already incurred. You can show your support for this resolution by signing a petition at Change.org.
The California Charter School Association may have purchased a majority of the Board during the last election. This doesn’t mean that parents, teachers and other supporters of public education need to cede control.
“It is the intent of the Legislature that members of the public be able to place matters directly related to school district business on the agenda of school district governing board meetings.”
- California Education Code
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. He was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com.