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LAUSD charter investigations increase but funding doesn’t

Mike Szymanski | January 19, 2016

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Ken Bramlett, LAUSD inspector general

Investigating and analyzing charter schools is becoming a greater burden for LA Unified, and the district isn’t getting any more money to do the work, according to a report presented today.

“Charter-related work consumes the most amount of investigative resources due to the time-sensitive nature of the work and the monthly deadlines for board action on charter petitions,” LAUSD inspector general Ken Bramlett said in his report to the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee. He noted that at least 20 percent of the district’s total investigative work is to check the due diligence of charter schools. This year alone, there are also five ongoing large-scale charter school investigations.

“What worries me is that with more charter schools planned for the district we will be doing more investigations without additional resources,” Bramlett told the committee, chaired by Mónica Ratliff.

The district’s Office of Inspector General looks at improper and illegal activities of anyone doing business with LAUSD. Some of the investigations come from complaints, others come from research required by law. Bramlett said that about 54 percent of projects are investigative, and 46 percent are due diligence issues, such as checking staff backgrounds, facilities and charter schools.

The inspector general’s office needs an additional $570,000 for staff, which would pay for two additional investigative assistants, two forensic accountants and an administrative aide, Bramlett said, adding that the money would help examine safety issues at schools.

Board member Ref Rodriguez said that he hoped the increase in charter investigations would “lead to trainings for the charters and they can get better at what we do.” He said LAUSD staff should ask for more money from the state to deal with charter research, saying, “We have the most charters, could we get additional resources?”

The list of items the inspector general’s office is looking into includes such things as charter school use of special education funds, random metal detector searches at school sites and use of technology to help safety on school buses.

At some point, committee chair Mónica Ratliff and board member Richard Vladovic suggested that the inspector general’s office look into the high school football safety, including the number of injuries and concussions suffered at school games.

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