Charter school group sues LAUSD over construction money

A state group that advocates for charter schools is suing the Los Angeles Unified School District, claiming that millions of dollars intended for construction projects have been stripped away without public oversight or accountability.

The California Charter Schools Assn. filed a lawsuit against L.A. Unified and new Supt. Michelle King this week alleging that district leaders have in public forums and in court documents stated that $450 million from a bond measure passed by voters in 2008 was to be allocated to charter schools.

District officials have since reduced funding for charter facilities by $224 million, according to the lawsuit.

The most recent reduction occurred in November when L.A. Unified's school board reallocated $600 million from the bond program to make schools more accessible to disabled students.

Ricardo Soto, general counsel for the association, said the publicly funded but independently run charter schools took a disproportionate hit. He said the district has yet to respond to a public records request filed by the association seeking more information on the money.

The group is asking that the money be restored and that district be required to comply with the California Public Records Act.

"We think that the previous cuts and the November cuts the board approved were unlawful," Soto said.

He said one of the major obstacles facing charter schools is the ability to get adequate facilities.

L.A. Unified's general counsel, David Holmquist, said that the bond measure does not require that a specific amount be spent on charters and that the school board is free to move funds to projects identified as priorities. He said charters have benefited from those shifts in the past.

Holmquist said improving accessibility for disabled children is a priority. The district remains under federal supervision after failing to properly provide legally required academic programs for special education students in the 1990s.

"I'm concerned that they are not expressing concern for making our schools, where some of their charters are located, more accessible to disabled students, especially given the situation where charters are frequently accused of not supporting special ed kids," Holmquist said.

zahira.torres@latimes.com

Twitter: @zahiratorres

Editor's note: The Times receives funding for its digital initiative Education Matters from one or more of the groups mentioned in this article. The California Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Los Angeles administer grants from the Baxter Family Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the California Endowment and the Wasserman Foundation. Under terms of the grants, the Times retains complete control over editorial content.

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A version of this article appeared in print on January 15, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Charter group sues LAUSD over bond funds" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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