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Katherine Kozioziemski tells the sad story of her bad experience with a charter school that promised the moon, but turned into a grand financial scam. Her post appears on a new site sponsored by the Network for Public Education called “Public Voices for Public Schools.”
I knew something was seriously wrong as soon as I saw the budget of the charter school my kids attended. As a member of the school site council, I was on the budget committee. Now, as I looked at the numbers, I could see for myself how dire the situation was. The school was paying five times fair market value to lease a property from a shell company created by the former CEO of the charter management company. We were on a fast track to bankruptcy.
How did a charter school created by parents and teachers morph into a series of shell corporations and a money-making scheme so complex that the Securities and Exchange Commission would ultimately step in? The story begins nearly two decades ago with budget cuts. Like districts all over California, the Livermore schools had been forced to make deep cuts, including shuttering two beloved magnet schools. The Livermore Valley Charter School, which opened in 2005, emerged from a grassroots desire to provide art, music and science—all of the things our district schools were being forced to eliminate.
To me it sounded like the promise of Disneyland: a private school education at a public school price. While classes in the public schools had 25+ kids in a class, the charter would cap its class sizes at 20. I bought into it–hook, line and sinker.
Within a few years after opening, the K-8 school was in financial freefall. That’s when the CEO proposed an ambitious plan that would not just save the school but create a high school as well as acquire two additional schools in Stockton. By the time my son started at Livermore Valley Charter in 2012, I was already hearing whispers about the company that now ran the school: Tri Valley Learning Corporation. By 2015, when my kids were in kindergarten and third grade, signs that something was seriously awry were impossible to ignore.
Open the link to read the rest of this shocking story.