CA Charter Operator Recruits Foreign Students, Charges Them Tuition, and More…
California-based Tri-Valley Learning Corporation (TVLC) is the center of a complex investigation that was apparently prompted when in February 2016, two foreign exchange students were apparently moved from one TVLC school to another without parental consent.
According to the July 08, 2016, East Bay Times, CA Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson went to the school campus from which the students went missing, in Livermore, California. Torlakson’s visit led to investigation of TVLC by the district attorney.
As the East Bay Times continues:
Although the District Attorney’s Office can’t discuss exactly what is being investigated, assistant district attorney Annie Esposito said the case is complicated and involves many pieces.
The missing students sparked a domino affect, leading to allegations of fiscal mismanagement, lack of transparency and not following state education code. …
Charters operate independently with their own boards, and are not allowed to charge tuition because they receive state funds.
Yet, TVLC charged $15,300 in tuition and $16,000 in housing per year to the 60 foreign students it recruited. The company argued the charges were legal reimbursements for expenses related to its exchange program. …
Chris Van Schaack, assistant superintendent of the Livermore Unified School District, said he hopes the corporation can clean up its mess, because the charter schools provide an alternative to students who do not want to be in bigger schools.
Apparently several hundred TVLC parents decided that those bigger, district schools are preferable to TVLC chaos and confusion. As the Mercury News reports on August 22, 2016:
LIVERMORE — On the first day of school, more than 500 new students swarmed into Livermore public schools, the vast majority fleeing the city’s two embattled charter schools in light of a litany of accusations ranging from fiscal mismanagement to criminal wrongdoing.
The Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District got nearly double the number of new students it was expecting as parents a few weeks ago began pulling their children out of Livermore Valley Charter School and Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory.
The company that runs the charter schools, the Tri-Valley Learning Corp., is facing allegations of financial mismanagement; illegally charging foreign exchange students tuition and transferring them to a school in Stockton against their will; an investigation by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office for potential criminal charges; and, most recently, hiring a principal who made an online reference to empathizing with mass shooters. …
By mid-afternoon Monday, 308 new students had showed up in kindergarten through eighth grade, and about 220 new students enrolled in high school, said Chris Van Schaack, assistant superintendent for the Livermore school district. He said 80 percent of the increase came from the two charters. The district will evaluate at the end of the week if new teachers will need to be added.
The newly-hired principal in question apparently posted about his unemployment woes, including stating that he “UNDERSTAND[s] those who go postal” in relation to the 2016 Orlando, Florida, and Santa Ana, California shootings. Parents read the blog post and pressured TVLC to revoke its offer of employment.
In reporting on the August 22, 2016, TVLC student exodus, ABC7.news adds that TVLC’s problems also include failing to make teacher retirement payments. Still, the issue of shuttling foreign exchange students (and associated potential criminal charges) tops the charts, even as asst super Van Schaack continues rooting for TVLC:
Livermore Superintendent Kelly Bowers says about 400 parents have decided to pull their kids out of Livermore’s charter schools this week and put them in public schools.
Some are still trying to decide what to do and some teachers have also called her, worried, because they haven’t received their retirement payments.
“We did meet with about 28 teachers who are very concerned from the charter school, who were worried about their STRS [state teachers retirement system] payments. They were worried about their paychecks that had come late sometimes. And they’re very concerned about their own future,” Bowers said.
Administrators say they have been investigating the schools since February and are doing their best to try and get the schools back on track.
“It’s almost never in the best interest of students to shut down schools. So that’s not a direction that we want to go, we want them to fix their problems,” Asst. Superintendent Chris Van Schaack said.
The problems, according to Livermore administrators, include not paying rent, not paying teachers and transferring foreign exchange students to Stockton against their will.
The last one has drawn the attention of prosecutors who are looking into whether a crime occurred.
“My understanding is false imprisonment, taking students against their will and moving them,” Van Schaack said.
Wow. But let’s try to save the fiscally-tottering, potentially-criminally-charged, opaquely-operated schools that were apparently off of any effective accountability radar to begin with.