LA County Office of Education Finds LBUSD Misspent $24 Million

In a response to an administrative complaint brought by parents and community organizations, the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) has found that the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) misallocated $24 million in funds meant to increase or improve services for high need students last year. As a result, the school district will have to make significant adjustments to its education spending plan to provide increased services for students this school year.

While the California Department of Education has ordered districts to correct their spending, this is the first time that a county office of education has found that a district improperly credited itself as having spent funds for high need students, and called for the district to redress this error by increasing its expenditures to high need students in the subsequent school year.  

The administrative complaint, brought under a process called the Uniform Complaint Procedure, was filed in April 2017 by parents Guadalupe Luna and Marina Roman Sanchez, and Latinos in Action-California and the Children’s Defense Fund-California, who are represented by non-profit law firm Public Advocates, Inc.

“Finally, Long Beach Unified is being held accountable to fully meet its obligation to help high need students,” said Sanchez, a parent complainant and member of Latinos in Action-California. “We look forward to working with the district to identify the millions of dollars of new services that will benefit our students.”

According to LACOE, LBUSD did not justify how $17 million of funds generated by high need students spent on textbooks and materials and $7 million on teacher salary costs was used to grow services for low-income, English language learner and foster youth students. LACOE determined that, despite being given the opportunity, LBUSD “could not provide a satisfactory explanation” for its assertion that basic textbook purchases were principally directed to benefit high need students and ultimately concluded the $24 million in textbook and salary costs “should not have been included” among the actions credited against the district’s obligation toward high need students.

“With added flexibility comes greater responsibility for equity and transparency,” said Angelica Salazar, director of education equity for Children’s Defense Fund-California. “We thank LACOE for keeping students first. We continue to support students, parents and community-based organizations in Long Beach to meaningfully engage in this process and hold LBUSD accountable to serving high need students.”

LBUSD will need to demonstrate that it is living up to the promise of California’s groundbreaking education reform law, the Local Control Funding Formula, by amending its current-year spending plan. Complainants estimate that LBUSD will have to add millions more in new spending on high need students in the current school year. LACOE is first giving the California Department of Education time to issue a decision on an earlier appeal by complainants on these matters before requiring the district comply.

“For LCFF to deliver on the promise of equity in California, county offices will sometimes need to exercise critical oversight over local spending plans. We appreciate the county office stepping up to safeguard this promise,” said Angelica Jongco, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Advocates. She added, “We urge LBUSD to take action now to fix this $24 million mistake. High need students should not have to wait yet another year to get the services that they deserve.”

For a copy of the LACOE decision, click here.

For a copy of the UCP complaint against LACOE, click here.

For more background on the Local Control Funding Formula, click here.

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