As you probably know I’ve been investigating LAUSD charter schools using the California Public Records Act since January 2019. I was moved to this work1 by the monumental UTLA strike and especially the union’s focus on charter co-location.
I obtained some striking early results including an incredibly consequential release of emails from Green Dot Charter Schools, some of the fruits of which got wide and fairly devastating coverage in the media, including the Los Angeles Times, and Capital and Main, and Diane Ravitch’s blog, and elsewhere.
But this kind of success breeds resistance, so a lot of charters lawyered up and stopped producing records in response to my requests, or even stopped producing without the benefit of a lawyer’s advice.2 The only option left in such a situation is to start filing lawsuits, and that’s just what I’ve been forced to do.
In January 2020, for instance, I filed two.3 One ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ and the other against white savior charter conspiracy PUC Charter Schools, in some vague sense co-founded by former LAUSD board member and convicted felon Ref Rodriguez.
And both of these targets, once sued, had the sense to hire attorneys and listen to their advice, which is why both started producing records immediately and agreed to settlement terms in April.4 The CPRA is very clear that public agencies must pay the prevailing requester’s legal fees and costs5 and both schools did so as part of their agreements with me.
In particular, PUC coughed up $5,750 and ■ ■ ■ ■ $5,500. I took $465 from each amount to cover what I’d paid the court to file the suits and the rest went to my attorneys, Ian Stringham and Tasha Hill. That adds up to more than eleven thousand dollars of public money, allocated to educate our children but instead wasted by these privatizing pirates to fund their idiotic arrogance. Anyway, that’s it. That’s the post. If you want to take a look at the settlement agreements here they are:
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Image of ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ is ©2020 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and once upon a time ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
- I’m mocking the California Charter Schools Association propaganda team here, I hope you know! They’re always talking about “the work, this work, that work, the work!” I find it an incredibly culty turn of phrase, but maybe it’s just me?
- This is a pretty typical kind of arrogance among local public agencies, such as charter schools and business improvement districts, which are administered under contract by private non-profit corporations. They’re subject to the CPRA because they’re formed and funded by government to carry out governmental functions, a role with which they’re perfectly pleased when cashing the checks but which they abandon immediately when it comes to CPRA compliance or other obligations attached to their use of public money. These organizations are run by boards of volunteer directors, mostly zillionaires of one sort or another, who as zillionaires are inclined, mostly correctly, to understand the legal system as subservient to their needs and therefore consistent with their desires. This leads them to ignore facts about the law because they already know what they want it to be and mostly that’s exactly what it is. Which in turn leads them to act directly against the advice that any competent lawyer would have given them if only they’d had the damn sense to hire one and ask a question.
- Two against charter schools, anyway. Probably some others as well. It really is the only way to get records out of some of these damn agencies.
- All the records they produced are interesting. ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ but haven’t had time to process and publish the PUC production yet. I hope to get to it in the next couple weeks.
- Fees are consist of money earned by the lawyer from working on the case but not necessarily paid up front by the requester. Costs are actual out-of-pocket money paid by someone. This is a universally made distinction in this context but I’m not sure what the practical difference is. Maybe fees are more subjective when it comes to the amounts that judges are required to award?