More than 30 teachers at the largest online charter school network in California filed complaints against their employer on Thursday, alleging that the schools violated state and federal laws by failing to provide special education services, inflating enrollment figures and paying for conferences in Yosemite and Palm Springs with federal money intended for students from low-income families.

The teachers filed their complaints – 69 in all – with the California Department of Education, county superintendents and nine school districts that oversee nine branches of the California Virtual Academies schools. The network operates 11 schools in California with an enrollment of 14,500 students.

“There is little oversight of virtual public schools in California,” said Cara Bryant, a longtime California Virtual Academies teacher and current teacher trainer based out of the branch known as CAVA @ Sonoma, in a statement.

“I do not believe all students are getting the education they need enrolled in CAVA,” Bryant said.

K12 Inc., the parent company of California Virtual Academies, denied the allegations and suggested they were part of an effort to unionize teachers at the schools. Other allegations included the illegal sharing of confidential student information, such as Individualized Education Plans for special education students, with all teachers; failing to keep adequate financial reserves; and failing to improve a pattern of sub-par student academic achievement and graduation rates.

At the CAVA@Los Angeles school, for example, 274 students were enrolled in the 12th grade in 2012-13 but none of those who graduated had completed all the courses required for UC or CSU admission.

“The latest round of complaints filed by a small group of individuals are consistent with prior complaints brought against the California Virtual Academies by various labor organizations seeking to represent CAVA certified teachers,” said Katrina Abston, head of schools for the network, in a statement from K12.

Some teachers at the California Virtual Academies have formed a group known as the California Virtual Educators that is seeking to unionize and affiliate with the California Teachers Association, according to Stacie Bailey, a high school science teacher at California Virtual Academies.

“As with the prior complaints, CAVA absolutely believes these current complaints are without merit,” Abston said. The charter schools undergo annual financial audits by independent external auditors, Abston said, and have “a strong record of compliance.”

David Thoming, superintendent of the New Jerusalem Elementary School District, said the district would investigate the complaints and asked the letter writers to send evidence of non-compliance. Families in the New Jerusalem district have been very happy with the CAVA@San Mateo school, he said, which provides homeschool families a structured curriculum and high school students a more flexible schedule. One student in the district is an accomplished gymnast who is enrolled in CAVA@San Mateo so she can take classes around her workout schedule.

“They love it,” Thoming said. “They wouldn’t be as large as they are if families didn’t like it.”

He added, “No one’s forcing them to go there and along the same line, for the teachers, no one’s forcing them to work there.”

Links to the complaints can be found on the California Virtual Educators website. The California Virtual Academy schools named in the complaints and the districts that oversee them are:

  • CAVA@Fresno – Orange Center School District
  • CAVA@Jamestown – Jamestown Elementary School District
  • CAVA@Kings – Armona Union Elementary School District
  • CAVA@Los Angeles – West Covina Unified School District
  • CAVA@Maricopa and CAVA@Maricopa High – Maricopa Unified School District
  • CAVA@San Diego – Spencer Valley Elementary School District
  • CAVA@San Joaquin – New Jerusalem Elementary School District
  • CAVA@San Mateo – Jefferson Elementary School District
  • CAVA@Sutter – Meridian Elementary School District

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  1. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Districts pick up a 1% charter oversight fee, but likely do little to no oversight, if the experience of SFUSD is any indication. They are the authorizers, I assume, versus the SBE. When are they going to stay holding the charters they authorized accountable?

    Replies

    • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

      I mean – hold the charters accountable?

    • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

      I don't mean SFUSD is the authorizer for CAVA. I mean to say that to the extent districts don't properly oversee charters, while not absolving CAVA if in fact the allegations are true, there are real consequences to lack of oversight whether that lack comes in the form of benign neglect or otherwise. This should not be lost on those who believe that LCFF has teeth. There's a steady stream of charter-bashing but … Read More

      I don’t mean SFUSD is the authorizer for CAVA. I mean to say that to the extent districts don’t properly oversee charters, while not absolving CAVA if in fact the allegations are true, there are real consequences to lack of oversight whether that lack comes in the form of benign neglect or otherwise. This should not be lost on those who believe that LCFF has teeth. There’s a steady stream of charter-bashing but a credulous acceptance of the toothless LCAP.

      • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

        While I agree with your point, Don, (as long as we kept our API up, we were always rubber stamped), it is fantastically difficult to get accurate information regarding virtual charters when the district-paid independent authorizers cannot actually visit a brick and mortar school to see firsthand what's what once a year. They do not talk to teachers or secretaries or parents or students, just one person. Think about it: All the bogus information gets … Read More

        While I agree with your point, Don, (as long as we kept our API up, we were always rubber stamped), it is fantastically difficult to get accurate information regarding virtual charters when the district-paid independent authorizers cannot actually visit a brick and mortar school to see firsthand what’s what once a year. They do not talk to teachers or secretaries or parents or students, just one person. Think about it: All the bogus information gets funneled through one possibly shady person in an office or at the local Starbucks. It is quite possible that the district is doing its job, but that the charter is altering its information, or putting on a show and spinning the information, or simply withholding the info because the auditor didn’t ask to see that bit.

        While CA has the “determination of funding clause” to help teachers out, it is abundantly obvious that virtual charters should also have different authorizer accounting tactics, too.

  2. CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

    K12 dishonest? I’m shocked — shocked!