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Add Long Beach Unified to the list of California school districts accused of improperly spending money intended to help students with some of the greatest needs.
The system, with about 78,000 students, is the seventh to be targeted by Public Advocates. The watchdog law firm has filed a complaint on behalf of Children’s Defense Fund-California, Latinos in Action and parents Marina Roman Sanchez and Guadalupe Luna.
The complaint alleges that Long Beach Unified is improperly spending as much as $40 million this year for district-wide programs rather than targeting that money to help low-income students, those learning English and foster children.
Long Beach Unified received about $108 million this year to help those groups of students, said Angelica Jongco, senior staff attorney for Public Advocates, which is based in San Francisco.
“This bothers me, and makes me very angry,” said Luna, who has three children in the district. “If this money was meant to help high-need students, why is it being used this way? This is illegal and needs to be brought to public light."
In a statement, the district defended its spending as legal and effective. It also noted that the vast majority of its students fall into one or more of the three groups targeted, which justifies some spending for district-wide efforts.
The arguments on both sides are similar to those over state funding for these same groups in the Los Angeles Unified School District. In that case, state officials so far have sided largely with the advocates. L.A. Unified also faces a lawsuit over the issue.