LOS ANGELES (CN) - Los Angeles School District took $224 million in bond money earmarked for charter schools without public oversight or accountability, the California Charter Schools Association claims in court.
In a Jan. 11 lawsuit in Superior Court, the association claims LAUSD violated Proposition 39, the Smaller Classes, Safer Schools and Financial Accountability Act. The 2000 proposition amended the state constitution to reduce the voter threshold needed to approve school bonds from two-thirds to 55 percent.
Almost 20 percent of LAUSD school students attend independent charter schools, and in the past 10 school years enrollment in charter schools has increased by 400 percent, the association says. In that time, L.A. public schools decreased by 150,000, according to the complaint.
The association says charter schools and students desperately need public funds to stay open and maintain their facilities.
In 2008, California voters approved a $7 billion bond measure that included $450 million earmarked for charter schools.
"Despite its legal obligations, LAUSD has repeatedly reallocated and reduced the $450 million charter school share of Measure Q bond funds," the lawsuit states.
The association says that LAUSD did not publicly release documents that would should how the money is spent, though the association made a public records request.
Based on available information it appears the $450 million has been reduced by almost half, in increments of $48 million, $88 million, and another $88 million, the association says.
"Each of these reductions was done without transparency or accountability. There was nearly no ability for interested stakeholders to provide input into LAUSD's actions, nor did LAUSD provide adequate information to charter schools, CCSA [California Charter Schools Association], the public, or even LAUSD's own board to understand the reasons for these major funding reductions," the complaint states.
The association seeks declaratory judgment, rescission of the funding cuts, and an injunction ordering the school district to comply with the Public Records Act.
Defendants include the Board of Education and new superintendent Michelle King.
The association is represented by James Arnone of Latham & Watkins.
LAUSD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.