Livermore: More than 400 students flee charter schools
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.
The charges prompted state Superintendent of Education Tom Torlakson to meet privately with charter school parents and school district officials Thursday.
"It's the most serious set of allegations against a charter that I've ever seen," Torlakson said.
The District Attorney's Office is investigating potential fraud or misuse of public money, and student safety, the superintendent said. Torlakson said the parents he met with Thursday were extremely frustrated.
Charters are public schools funded by taxpayer money but run independently of school districts.
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.
Lynn Lysko, CEO for Tri-Valley Learning Corp., did not return calls for comment Monday. In an interview last week, she estimated that just 40 students left Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory for a district school. She said she expected enrollment for both schools to be 1,500, only a 2.5 percent decrease from the previous year, adding that the charter high school has a waiting list of about 400 students.
Founded in 2005, the Tri-Valley Learning Corp. operates two schools in Stockton in addition to its Livermore schools. The schools have a strong academic reputation, according to their website, with Livermore Valley Charter Preparatory ranking 366 out of more than 30,000 public high schools across the country in a recent Newsweek survey.
A tipping point for some parents could have been the hiring of the new principal for Livermore: More than 400 students flee charter schools - EastBayTimes.com: