Recently, there have been developments pertinent to the lawsuit, Community Coalition of South Los Angeles and Reyna Frias v. LAUSD, et al, filed July 1, 2015 on behalf of Reyna Frias and Community Coalition of South Los Angeles by the ACLU of California,Public Advocates Inc. and Covington & Burling, LLP, against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE).
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that LAUSD is violating state law by refusing to use state education funds specifically targeted to help low-income students, English language learners and foster youth to increase or improve services for those students. The lawsuit asserts that the district has used improper accounting practices that subvert the 2013 education finance reform law known as Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and which could result in a loss of more than $2 billion in funding over the next decade for high needs students in the district.
The lawsuit specifically addresses accounting practices in the district's 2014-15 and 2015-16 Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) and which will continue in the foreseeable future.
About a month after the lawsuit was filed, the LAUSD filed a motion with the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the plaintiffs, Community Coalition and Ms. Frias, failed to "exhaust administrative remedies" available to them before filing a lawsuit. Although plaintiffs disagree with this assertion and oppose the motion, given the relatively short timeframe required for final resolution (approximately 120 days), they proceeded to file an administrative complaint with the district about their concerns; this is known as a Uniform Complaint Procedure (UCP) complaint.
The complaint with LAUSD was filed on September 9, 2015, as was a similar complaint with LACOE.
On November 9th LAUSD, as expected, denied the complaint and, separately, on November 12th LACOE issued a determination also denying plaintiffs’ complaint to LACOE.
LAUSD's denial agrees with plaintiffs that the case turns on a clean legal question: can a school district count the high-need students’ proportional share of special education spending towards its supplemental & concentration spending obligations under LCFF?
LAUSD has not asserted in its denial of this complaint that its special education services are somehow uniquely serving the needs of English language learners, foster youth or low-income students. To the contrary, LAUSD concedes that the high-need students are receiving special education services because of their special education needs, not because of particular needs related to being English language learners, foster youth or low-income students.
LACOE’s denial effectively asserts that it will not independently examine the assertions in a district’s LCAP, that as long as the district asserts it is spending its supplemental and concentration funds properly, the county must accept that assertion at face value and approve the LCAP. Plaintiffs contend that the contrary is true, that is, that the LCFF statute and regulations explicitly require counties to exercise independent and meaningful oversight.
Plaintiffs filed appeals of both determinations with State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson at the end of last week. A decision on the appeals is required within sixty (60) days.
Meanwhile, a status conference on the case and a hearing on the district’s motion to dismiss (if still relevant) that was scheduled for December 1, 2015 has been rescheduled by the court for February 18, 2016 to give time for consideration of the complaints and appeals filed by the plaintiffs with local and state education entities.