As you may know I have been making requests of charter schools under the California Public Records Act for about a year now. Some of them have been incredibly cooperative while others, well, you know how it goes, have been less so. And no doubt you’re aware by now that the only mechanism to compel compliance with the CPRA is to file a lawsuit. Which brings us to that shady criminal conspiracy known as The Accelerated Schools. I’ve written a lot about these folks and their cartoonishly wicked white supremacy but, you may have noted, none of it has been based on public records apart from this very first thing I did in April 2019.
So I sent them a few more requests after the one that post was based on and they made a few desultory stabs at answering me in compliance with the law and then stopped responding at all. But as you’re probably aware, the situation with this Klown Kar Krew has grown ever more urgent, more of public interest than ever before.
What, that is, with their retaliatory firing of long-time employee Hilda Guzman and subsequent unfair labor practices complaint by her union, with repeated community protests at their infernal board meetings, and the unexpected1 recent petulant rage quit by now thankfully former board chair Juli Quinn. We need to be able to understand what these folks are up to! Which is why their special variety of unhinged intransigence can’t go unanswered, not if we expect government of, by, and for the people to not perish from this earth.
And in pursuance of it not perishing, therefore, I filed a writ petition against these privatizing creepers a couple weeks ago. And for this reason and that reason it took a while to get it served, but it was served this morning, and at long last I can publish a copy of it. And there are transcribed selections below, so stay tuned for updates and, eventually, more of the spicy records-based mockery you’re here for!
1. This is a petition to enforce the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”) against Respondent, The Accelerated Schools. Petitioner Michael Kohlhaas submitted six requests for public records to The Accelerated Schools (“TAS” or “Respondent”), which TAS administers. These requests asked for access to clearly-identifiable records fundamental to the Respondent’s operation that is subject to mandatory disclosure under the CPRA. Respondent failed to respond to the requests. Respondent has thereby violated the CPRA.
2. The public’s access to information is obstructed by Respondent’s repeated and systemic violation of the CPRA. By this Petition and Complaint and pursuant to the Code of Civil Procedure §§ 1085, et seq. and Government Code §§ 6250, et seq., Petitioner respectfully requests from this Court: a writ of mandate to command TAS to disclose all non-exempt information Petitioner requested and thereby comply with the CPRA; a declaration that Respondent’s conduct fails to comply with the CPRA; and a permanent injunction enjoining Respondent from continuing its pattern and practice of violating the CPRA.
5. Petitioner Michael Kohlhaas is a resident of Los Angeles, holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, is a mathematics professor at a local college, and is an open records activist. Kohlhaas utilizes public record requests to investigate and understand the activities of charter school corporations (“charters”), the trade association California Charter Schools Association (“CCSA”) , the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”), and the relationship between those entities. He publicizes his findings to the public through blogging and community events. Information Kohlhaas has uncovered via CPRA requests has assisted academic researchers, education activists, and the public at large in understanding charter schools, their aggressive CCSA trade association, and the power these entities wield in the community. Kohlhaas’s publication of emails obtained through CPRA requests to the Green Dot Charter School corporation led to the discovery that LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin had disclosed confidential school district legal strategies to the CCSA, which was a party-opponent litigating against LAUSD at the time. Parent groups organized a petition in response to Melvoin’s conduct. Parent activists with the K12 News Network have written about how charter schools and the CCSA tried to undermine efforts to “to make schools more accessible to disabled students” using CPRA information disseminated by Kohlhaas. Kohlhaas is a member of the public within the meaning of §§ 6252(b)-(c).
7. As discussed in paragraph 5 supra, Kohlhaas’s work as an open records activist has utilized the sunshine laws in ways that have been of maximum benefit to the public. His research and promulgation of information uncovered by CPRA requests have made a tangible and meaningful impact on open government, charter school activity, and the enforcement of accountability laws in Los Angeles. This type of information cannot be uncovered if charter school corporations do not comply with their statutory obligation to make their records open for public inspection. Here, TAS’ failure to produce requested public records serves to maintain its activities in a shroud of secrecy and to shield its operation from community oversight. TAS’ refusal to respond to public records requests violates the CPRA and frustrates the democratic process.
[An incredibly detailed and pretty entertaining description of all TAS’s many implicit refusals to comply with the damn law which you can read in the petition itself]
69. Respondent TAS has failed to provide various basic records in response to all six of Kohlhaas’s CPRA requests. In the case of the January requests, its been nearly a year. In the case of the last request made in April, it’s been over seven months. Respondent has also repeatedly failed to provide a determination as to whether the requested records are disclosable or an estimate as to when the requested records will be produced. Respondent has therefore repeatedly and as a matter of course violated the CPRA. Respondent’s pattern and practice of failing to produce public records in response to requests effectively makes the operations of the TAS secret and shields Respondent from public accountability. Judicial action is therefore necessary to enforce the requirements of the CPRA against Respondent.
80. In response to all six of Kohlhaas’s requests for disclosable public records, Respondent TAS has denied access to requested records through its pattern and practice of delay and non-response. Respondent failed to provide even a single record in response to all six requests. Respondent has therefore repeatedly violated the CPRA.
81. First, Respondent has repeatedly failed to provide Kohlhaas with a determination as to whether his requested records are disclosable—let alone to do so within the required 10-day statutory period. See § 6253(c). For Kohlhaas’s requests submitted on each date, Respondent failed to provide a determination of disclosability or any other information about the requested records. These responses, or lack thereof, do not comply with the CPRA.
82. Further, Respondent failed to provide Kohlhaas with an estimated date by which his requested records will be produced as required by law. See § 6253(c). Despite Kohlhaas’s repeated emails asking for updates as to when the requested records would be produced, Respondent has provided Kohlhaas with no information as to their likely date of disclosure. By repeatedly failing to provide Kohlhaas with an estimated date of production, Respondent has again violated the CPRA.
83. Respondent has failed to provide any of the basic and fundamental records that Kohlhaas requested. It has been over 10 months since Kohlhaas submitted his first request, and more than 7 months since he submitted his most recent request, but Respondent has still failed to produce the requested public records. Respondent has thereby unlawfully denied access to these documents, all of which carry a strong public interest in disclosure. By failing to produce even one of these public records, Respondent is maintaining in a shroud of secrecy records related to the TAS’ most basic day-to-day operations. Respondent has failed to provide these records at all—let alone “promptly,” as required by the CPRA. §6253(b)
84. Respondent’s denial of access and its failure to even communicate with Kohlhaas regarding his requests not only violates the letter of the CPRA, but also its spirit. The CPRA is predicated on the principle that:
“Openness in government is essential to the functioning of democracy. Implicit in the democratic process is the notion that government should be accountable for its actions. In order to verify accountability, individuals must have access to government files. Such access permits checks against the arbitrary exercise of official power and secrecy in the political process.”