CCSA Responds to UTLA Report on Charters' Fiscal Impact

May 17, 2016

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One week ago, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) released a self-funded report that purported to examine the fiscal impact of charter schools on L.A. Unified's finances. The deeper CCSA dug into the report, the more inaccuracies and irresponsible conclusions we discovered. Today we provided our complete response, which counters many of the report's distortions with clear facts and data, to the L.A. Unified board members and superintendent.

Here are just a few points from our response:

  • The UTLA report suggests that, to generate additional facilities revenue, L.A. Unified should charge charters both a pro rata share and a 3% oversight fee. However, what the report's authors fail to realize is that no school district in California charges charters both a pro rata share and a 3% oversight fee because that would be illegal.

  • The report warns that the revenue collected from charter schools does not cover the Charter Schools Division's expenses. In fact, the Charter Schools Division itself has already publicly documented that charter revenue amounts to about half a million dollars more than the division's expenses.

  • The report claims that the regulation allowing charters to access state and federal special education funding through other school districts, not LAUSD, costs the district more than $10 million. In fact, most charters choose to access special education funding through LAUSD. There is absolutely no evidence in the report to back up the alleged $10 million that is lost. It's a mystery where the report's authors got that number.

  • The UTLA report suggests that L.A. Unified would save money on special education costs if all charters reverted to the "schools of the district" status, which is the old model for how charters used to operate regarding serving students with disabilities. What the report's authors don't realize, perhaps because they lack local knowledge about L.A. schools, is that this old model was deemed unsuccessful by LAUSD precisely because it did not result in students with disabilities being served as well. Under the new charter special education options, the percentage of students with disabilities served in charters, as well as the range of disabilities represented, has increased significantly every year. The old model was also more costly for the district. So returning to the old model would make no sense financially or academically.

We also reminded L.A. Unified leadership of the fiscal analysis and recommendations provided last year by an independent panel, which found that charters have little, if anything, to do with the district's financial struggle. The following is an excerpt from the independent panel's report.

"Even if LAUSD had no more new charter schools, its enrollment would continue to decline due to demographic factors, factors that are not within its control, and that are unlikely to reverse in the coming years."

CCSA will continue to urge district leadership, and all those who care about strengthening L.A. public schools, to seriously examine the large and complex financial issues facing the district rather than irresponsibly scapegoat charters. And we will continue to urge UTLA leadership to prioritize student learning above all else when considering the financial decisions that have been made and must be made in the future.

CCSA developed this statement in response to a report by In the Public Interest from May 2016.