This candidate recognizes that there are tools available to collect the $13,745,310 past due balance, leaving the question: Do they want to?
LAUSD Board President and District 6 representative Kelly Gonez says that we “absolutely are due” the overallocation fees assessed to charter schools that have requested more space than they were entitled to under PROP-39. At a board meeting on September 24, 2019, she even went as far as to say that “as a district, we should be thinking pragmatically about what the best way to do that is.” Still, two years later the district has yet to “collect on the amount that we are owed.”
“$13,758,747 would go a long way in providing academic and enrichment opportunities for our students to succeed.” - Board District 6 Candidate Marvin Rodriguez
This is the fourth in a series on unpaid overallocation fees by charter schools. Please read the first part for an introduction to the current debt.
When asked last July by the Northridge East Neighborhood Council (NENC) Education Committee to provide information about “the significant amount of money that is owed to the district for overallocation penalties incurred by charter schools co-locating on LAUSD campuses”, Gonez passed the buck “to the appropriate District division”. When asked to clarify her position on this topic, her campaign did not respond. With the district not taking any public steps to collect this debt and the Charter School Division declining “to provide further comment on these matters”, the public is left to wonder if there is any bite behind Gonez’s bark. Could the Board President’s silence have anything to do with the vast amount of money flowing into her campaign from the charter school industry?
Despite the risk of retribution by supporters of under-regulated charter schools, one of Gonez’s competitors in the June 7, 2022 primary was willing to go on record about the $13,745,310 in unpaid debt. As a champion of the district’s public school students, Marvin Rodriguez believes that collecting this money falls under the district’s “obligation to protect and ensure the academic success of every student under its care.” He is willing to do whatever it takes, including revoking the charters of schools that refuse to pay what they owe.
Rodriguez believes that the tools the district needs to collect this debt are already available but questions if the board has the will to do so. He singles out AB 1505’s provisions as one way to move forward. However, those in charge must first recognize that there is a significant impact to the district from the refusal of these schools to pay their debts.
Rodriguez’s complete response is as follows:
If charter schools can appeal to Prop 39 to legitimize their continued undermining of our most socio-economically vulnerable district schools through co-location, so can the district exercise its right to demand and collect from charter schools unpaid overallocation fees.
I support revoking the charter of any school with an ongoing unpaid debt with the district. One, because the district has an obligation to protect and ensure the academic success of every student under its care. $13,758,747 would go a long way in providing academic and enrichment opportunities for our students to succeed. And two, because charter schools’ refusal to pay their debt to the district is illegal under Prop 39 (5 California Code of Regulation Section 11969.8(b))
I also support the district taking steps under AB 1505 to deny the charter renewal of any charter school with a fiscal impact on the district that the district is not able to bear. The district should not be forced to bear any fiscal impact resulting from a charter school’s refusal to pay its debt. I also support denying renewal of a charter school that through its misappropriation of district funds undermines the current educational services in the location it intends to operate.
The district has options available if it chooses to hold charter schools financially accountable. The question under the current leadership is: Does it want to?
Perhaps the district would have no choice but to flex its oversight muscle if Prop 39 included language stipulating the legal requirements for districts to collect the debt owed to them without exception or consideration. Such language would deny friends of charter schools the opportunity to use their position in the district to let charter schools off the hook.
Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He is an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and serves as the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education