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The Los Angeles Unified school district is investigating a network of eight charter schools for misuse of public school funds.
An audit showed Magnolia Public Schools used classroom cash to help six non-employees with immigration costs. The schools had trouble justifying another $3 million expense.
"These are taxpayer dollars, and we want to make sure they are spent correctly," said José Cole-Gutiérrez, director of L.A. Unified's charter school division.
A June audit, which the district is calling a "forensic review," revealed $2.8 million flowed from schools sites to the network’s management organization in the form of sloppy loans - much of which were never paid back. The management organization was then found to be operating on a $1.7 million deficit, meeting the IRS's definition of insolvent.
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Officials with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice said in a court filing Monday they're troubled California officials did not act on a 2007 student census that found 20,000 English learner students had received no specialized instruction.
“California’s EL students cannot afford to wait any longer,” the filing by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels said.
The document was filed in support of a 2013 lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against the state, claiming uneven English learner services are a violation of state law.
The US Dept. of Justice began investigating California's English learner monitoring in 2013.
State and federal law requires schools to give students who speak a language other than English at home specialized teaching to get them up to speed in academic English. The students in question make up less than 2 percent of the state's population of English learner students.
Foundations run large summer school programs for public school districts in Palos Verdes and other communities. They offer many "get-ahead" academic classes and electives.
For high achieving students, summer school is the only way to stack their high school transcripts for their college applications to shine above the rest.
At Peninsula High School, near the top of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, more than a thousand students have signed up for classes this summer, most of them to get ahead, officials said.
“They want to fill their transcripts with what looks at very appealing to colleges and universities,” program director Pat Corwin said. "They can’t do that during the normal school year."
The average six-period high school day doesn’t stretch far enough to meet graduation requirements and college entry requirements – especially for those who are shooting for a big name school, Corwin said.
A generation ago Palos Verdes Unified used to run its summer school. Corwin said the school district can’t afford it anymore – so now students have to pay for it.
Los Angeles County leads the state in the number of schools that offer bilingual education starting in kindergarten
A record number of graduating high schoolers achieved an academic standard known as "biliteracy," jumping from 19,000 students last year to 24,513 in 2014, according to the Califoria Department of Education.
Being biliterate is more than being bilingual.
"Biliteracy means that a child or an adult would have the ability to speak, read, write and communicate in at least two languages or more," said Jan Correa, Executive Director of the California Association of Bilingual Education. "Its not just the oral communication. Its having the academic ability to succeed in at least two languages."
The students received a gold-seal on their diploma - a biliteracy seal. The California Department of Education introduced the seal in 2012.
According to the CDE, for 2014:
Of the total number of gold seals, 74.49 percent were for Spanish, 9.81 percent for French, 3.88 percent for Mandarin, 1.97 percent for Japanese, 1.19 percent for German, and 0.29 percent for Cantonese. Altogether, students earned the seal for demonstrating proficiency in some 40 languages, including American Sign Language.
Arianna Anderson takes a hula class at the George Nakano Theatre at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. The daughter of a Hawaiian father and Mexican-American mother, Arianna has spent five years in the Los Angeles Unified school district's English learner program. The Andersons believe she didn't belong there in the first place.
Arianna Anderson is one of 180,000 students enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District's program for English learners.
Over 90 percent of students in the program speak Spanish. Most everyone else speaks Armenian, Korean or Filipino.
"I'm not an English learner," the 9-year-old said with a shrug.
The daughter of a Hawaiian father and Mexican-American mother, Arianna was raised speaking English, from the breakfast table to bedtime prayers.
Yet, every day for the last five years, she has been pulled out of her regular class at Van Deene Elementary in Torrance for an hour to get special tutoring for children who speak English as a second language.
It's impossible to tell how many other Los Angeles Unified students are mislabeled and receiving the wrong instruction. District officials said Arianna's case is unique — but acknowledge the English learner program has been poorly supervised in the past.