How a couple worked charter school regulations to make millions - LA Times

Why is Action 2020 opposed to the charter school movement, and why are Oakland school board elections the battleground on which to fight it?

One illustrative example comes from The Los Angeles Times. Last March, they published an investigation into two charter school operators in South Los Angeles. What they found was a scheme concocted by millionaires to drain the school district of public funds at the expense of students.

Furthermore, they found that the school board members and state elected officials responsible for overseeing the schools had accepted thousands of dollars from the school owners in campaign contributions.

The warning signs appeared soon after Denise Kawamoto accepted a job at Today’s Fresh Start Charter School in South Los Angeles.

Though she was fresh out of college, she was pretty sure it wasn’t normal for the school to churn so quickly through teachers or to mount surveillance cameras in each classroom. Old computers were lying around, but the campus had no internet access. Pay was low and supplies scarce — she wasn’t given books for her students.

She struggled to reconcile the school’s conditions with what little she knew about its wealthy founders, Clark and Jeanette Parker of Beverly Hills.

When Kawamoto saw their late-model Mercedes-Benz outside the school, she would think: “Look at your school, then look at what you drive.”

“That didn’t sit well with us teachers,” she said.

The Parkers have cast themselves as selfless philanthropists, telling the California Board of Education that they have “devoted all of our lives to the education of other people’s children, committed many millions of our own dollars directly to that particular purpose, with no gain directly to us.”

But the couple have, in fact, made millions from their charter schools. Financial records show the Parkers’ schools have paid more than $800,000 annually to rent buildings the couple own. The charters have contracted out services to the Parkers’ nonprofits and companies and paid Clark Parker generous consulting fees, all with taxpayer money, a Times investigation found.

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