Newsletter: Essential California: How a couple worked charter school regulations to make millions

LOS ANGELES-CA-NOVEMBER 4, 2018: Yanin Ardila, left, and Denise Kawamoto, two former teachers at Tod
Yanin Ardila, left, and Denise Kawamoto are former teachers at Today’s Fresh Start in Los Angeles who were dismayed by poor classroom conditions.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, March 28, and here’s what’s happening across California:

TOP STORIES

Clark and Jeanette Parker of Beverly Hills have cast themselves as selfless philanthropists, telling the California Board of Education that they have “devoted all of our lives to the education of other people’s children, committed many millions of our own dollars directly to that particular purpose, with no gain directly to us.” But the couple have, in fact, made millions from their charter schools. Financial records show the Parkers’ schools have paid more than $800,000 annually to rent buildings the couple own. The charters have contracted out services to the Parkers’ nonprofits and companies and paid Clark Parker generous consulting fees, all with taxpayer money, a Times investigation has found. Presented with The Times’ findings, the Parkers did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Read Part 1 of a three-part series this week. Los Angeles Times

Part 2: Hit hard by the recession and declining enrollment, some of California’s smallest school districts have been approving charter schools in exchange for fees. The practice, which is legal, has given districts an incentive not to monitor misbehaving charters. Los Angeles Times

Questions about the Census

Roughly 3 million people of Southwest Asian, Middle Eastern or North African descent live in the United States, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. No county is home to more of these communities than Los Angeles, where more than 350,000 people can trace their roots to a region that stretches from Mauritania to the mountains of Afghanistan. In past census surveys, more than 80% in this group have called themselves white, The Times analysis found. But many in those communities think there should be a separate category for people of Middle Eastern or North African descent. Los Angeles Times

Trying to make history

San Francisco is on course to be the first city in the country to eliminate new HIV infections — or at least come close. President Trump pledged in his State of the Union speech that the U.S. will “eliminate the HIV epidemic … within 10 years.” San Francisco is poised to get there first. Los Angeles Times

The National AIDS Memorial Grove Ceremony Recognizes World AIDS Day
A rose lies on a memorial with engraved names of AIDS victims at the National Aids Memorial Grove in San Francisco.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

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More shoes drop

A major Silicon Valley venture capital firm broke ties with its founder after he informed partners that the mastermind of the sweeping college admissions scandal helped get his son into college. Chris Schaepe has not been charged in the ongoing federal investigation, and his spokeswoman said he did nothing illegal. Los Angeles Times

L.A. STORIES

Watch: Video shows L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan trying to break into a woman’s home, leading to his firing after officials determined he had repeatedly lied about the incident. He was reinstated by Sheriff Alex Villanueva. The case set off an unprecedented legal battle between the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors. Los Angeles Times

Making up for mistakes: The Los Angeles City Council has agreed to pay $12 million to Susan Mellen, who spent 17 years behind bars for a murder she didn’t commit. Los Angeles Times

At the race track: Santa Anita might abolish the use of whips by jockeys. Los Angeles Times

Opening day! Taste-testing Dodger Stadium’s new food, including a brazen $21 sandwich. Los Angeles Times

In Beverly Hills: Cannabis and Barneys: High times and high-end style. Los Angeles Times

IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER

Change afoot: The Orange County Sheriff’s Department says it will end its agreement with federal immigration officials to hold some prisoners in the county jail system. Los Angeles Times

Plus: “South Bay law-enforcement leaders Tuesday put forward a proposal to change Santa Clara County’s sanctuary policy, allowing the notification of federal immigration agents when undocumented immigrants with violent criminal histories are released from local jails.” Mercury News

Amazing visualization: ”From Guatemala, Mexico and California come the stories of lives altered by Trump’s crackdown on immigration.” Washington Post

Housed under a bridge: “The head of Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday said his agency was facing a humanitarian crisis at the southern border, as migrant families are being held in a makeshift encampment under a bridge in El Paso, Texas, waiting to be processed by immigration officials.” BuzzFeed News

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Nepotism allegations: A former state government administrator allegedly engaged in “gross misconduct” by using the influence of her position to circumvent California’s civil service employment process in hiring and promoting her daughter, an audit found. Los Angeles Times

Where should the line be drawn? “As San Francisco moves to ban electronic cigarettes, many, then, are left wondering: Why are some ‘sins’ tolerated but others not? Should city officials outlaw traditional cigarettes while they’re at it?” San Francisco Chronicle

Life on the street: “Recently publicized emails between property owners and the LAPD illustrate the lengths landlords are willing to go to displace the homeless, and the ways in which law enforcement is complacent.” L.A. Taco

CRIME AND COURTS

Basta! Michael Avenatti is not backing off accusations that Nike paid associates of prep players. Los Angeles Times

Outbreak: California officials are investigating cases of Legionnaires’ disease at a prison in the Central Valley after an inmate died of the disease. Los Angeles Times

Officers shot: Two Inglewood police officers were shot Wednesday when responding to reports of a man with a sword at the Church of Scientology of Inglewood, authorities said. Los Angeles Times

Whoops! An intoxicated woman who had been kicked out of a posh Laguna Beach resort was arrested after she mistakenly walked into Justin Bieber’s hotel room, police said. Los Angeles Times

Coming soon: Force of Law, a new podcast on the debate over police shootings in California. CALmatters

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

Big food awards: The James Beard Foundation has announced this year’s nominations for its chef, restaurant and media awards in a ceremony in Houston. There are some notable Californians on the list. Los Angeles Times

At the movies: How America’s biggest theater chains are exploiting their janitors. Variety

Underfoot: A man is working to save Huntington Beach’s last historical sidewalk markings. Los Angeles Times

RIP: Poinsettia family matriarch Elisabeth “Jinx” Ecke is remembered as a mom, friend, businesswoman and philanthropist. San Diego Union-Tribune

She’s everywhere! Elizabeth Holmes has generated a hundred new ways that professional disgrace can be parsed in the multiplatform digital universe and, in doing so, proved that many people would rather obsess over a person’s hair than contemplate the fact that we are a nation easily conned,” writes columnist Mary McNamara. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles area: partly cloudy, 67, Thursday; partly cloudy, 71, Friday. San Diego: partly cloudy, 67, Thursday and Friday. San Francisco area: showers, 58, Thursday; partly cloudy, 60, Friday. San Jose: partly cloudy, 63. Thursday; sunny, 64, Friday. Sacramento: showers, 60, Thursday; partly cloudy, 66, Friday. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Michael Beard:

“It’s that time of year: My father and uncle were both hard-working people, usually with a second job and often, in my father’s case, with a third. Sometime in May 1962 they had picked up a gig driving busloads of lodge members up to Los Angeles where the new Dodger Stadium was located in Chavez Ravine. On this trip I got to tag along. The parking lot ordeal, which hasn’t changed much during ensuing decades, was typical and another story. On this particular Friday night it was a full house — Dodgers versus Giants.

“Once the passengers were delivered and the buses parked, we were allowed in for free at the gate on the fourth level. I remember my uncle saying, ‘the kid’s with us.’ There was standing room only and by the time we were in position it was the top of the third inning. The view at that level is spectacular, both inside and out of the ball park. In those days center field had two 410-feet markers just to the left and right of dead center. As my eyes became accustomed to the disorienting angle and height, I realized that the bases were loaded with two outs, Willie Mays was coming to bat and Stan Williams pitching for the Dodgers.

“It was a full count when Mays swung at a pitch and by the time the report of the bat reached the fourth level, Willie Davis was already running, sprinter fast, to center. When he hit the warning track, he left his feet and pirouetted as he reached high and caught the ball at the top of the fence, then dropped to the ground. Fifty-seven thousand fans went crazy with delight, and in the evening twilight of Southern California with the glow of Dodger Stadium lights, I was hooked for life.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.