LAUSD currently “co-locates” charter schools on 57 of its District campuses. The space-sharing is mandated by court-interpretation of a CA state proposition, “Prop 39” passed in 2000 regarding school bonds and facilities, requiring public school districts to provide chartered schools “reasonably equivalent” facilities.

Have leasing fees for these facilities been appropriately managed?

By law the chartering Local Education Agency (LEA) may charge the co-locating school based on its projected average daily attendance (ADA). If that projection is significantly off, according to a formula set by the state, the LEA may charge a fee the calculation of which is mandated, though the collection of it is not.

According to former school board candidate Carl Petersen, former LAUSD5 board member Bennett Kayser was first to call attention to these delinquent fees in 2015. Petersen posts video of current LAUSD5 board member Goldberg decrying unpaid fees in 2019. Then recently, Petersen excoriates the Charter School Division (CSD) for apparently “forgiving” $7.7m of these fees.

As Petersen notes, it is hard to imagine the original fee assessments were all entirely free of error. However while committed to transparency and the CSD’s letters assessing overallocation fees are all posted, the Division’s negotiations regarding these fees is opaque. Public outrage is unsurprising when these past assessments just suddenly evaporate between January and April of 2022.

Figure 1 (click to magnify) shows 57 charter schools (CS) that have co-located LAUSD school campuses at some point since 2015 when their enrollment has fallen so short as to unnecessarily displace the “hosting” District school. Some of these CS have since closed, some are branches of a charter management organization (CMO, like a corporate home-office of chain stores) that operates schools still open elsewhere within the District. Projected and actual ADA are shown by school for each school year assessed an “overallocation fee” (OA) between 2015 and 2021. The red diamond (right scale) shows the sum total of fees assessed per CMO. Schools operating without a CMO are characterized as “freestanding management” and their total assessment is shown in Figure 2.


Figure 1:  Projected (light) and actual (dark) average daily attendance for each year between 2015 and 2021 in co-located charter schools where there is a significant enrollment under-estimate. Red cross marks overallocation fee assessed per school, red diamond represents the sum total of those fees assessed a school’s charter management organization (CMO). Assessed fees were stable through January, 2022.

Figure 2 depicts the drop in every school’s, and each CMO’s, total fees assessed. Red, filled diamonds are the fees assessed to CMOs (analogous to Figure 1); their constituent schools’ fees are depicted with a red cross. Red, filled triangles mark the fee assessed a freestanding-management charter school (or one managed by a CMO that has just one school represented). The horizontal bar delineates the unexplained April fee drop. When filled in yellow, that pairs with the red, filled diamond or triangle for CMOs and freestanding-management charters.


Figure 2: Drop in overallocation fees between January and April 2022. A vertical line beneath the filled diamond depicts the change for Charter Management Organizations (sum total of their constituent individual schools); that vertical line beneath a filled triangle represents the change for individual schools with freestanding-management.

The largest drop in assessed fees accrued among the 21 freestanding-management charters. These independent, “mom/pop” charters saw on average 64% (±18%) drop in the overallocation fees assessed. The 26 schools belonging to 10 CMOs saw on average 43% (±19%) fee reduction; the remaining 10 CMOs representing schools with just one school in receipt of an overallocation fee, averaged a 49% (±26%) reduction. The assessment of two schools went up between January and April, 2022. There was no obvious bias in reduction between board districts.

The Charter School Division should post notice of corrections and negotiations related to these overallocation fees in justification of change from the initial assessment. It is certainly terrific that $4m has been clawed back from charter schools misrepresenting their popularity at the expense of instructional space available to their host schools.

However there is long-term consequence to constricting a school’s program that cannot be repaid merely in money, even were the fee not waived. No “payment plan” is on file for 13 schools with outstanding fees. 6 of those schools are “closed” even while their parent CMOs remain in operation in the District or an underwriting organization remains very much in business. It’s not clear why these funds, totaling $1.7m even after these mysterious fee waivers, could not yet be collected.

So of the $17.5m assessed for overallocation of space between 2015-2021 as of 1/17/22 (Figure 3), less than a quarter ($4.1m) has been collected to date, agreements exist to receive 1/5 ($3.5m), 10% are attributed to “closed” schools though their parent companies still do business with the District. Almost half the amount still owed, $8.3m from 60 schools, vanished from the books between January and April 2022. Whether this recalculation is justified is unknown. And the enrollment losses appear more school-specific than regional.


Figure 3: Distribution of overallocation fees assessed between 2015-21. Nearly half is written from the books, nearly one quarter collected and plans negotiated for the remainder or possibly lost to closure of the “charter business”.

These are funds owed to the public and represent resources denied to public school children. Our children deserve better resource-management.