Largest Charter School Chain in LA Raises Millions in Dark Money to Fight Union Drive, State Auditor Finds
Nearly $1 million in cash, $2.2 million in legal work.
The extraordinary lengths that Los Angeles’ largest charter school chain will go to defeat a union drive were revealed in a new California State Auditor report that found it raised nearly $1 million for the effort and broke federal privacy law by giving alumni information to industry lobbyists to augment their union-busting campaign.
The efforts by Alliance College-Ready Public Schools (Alliance) to stop the union drive that began in March 2015, when 67 teachers and counselors said they wanted to join United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), also included $2.2 million in donated legal fees, hiring an array of campaign consultants routinely seen in political fights and coordinating with the California Charter School Association (CCSA), which used the private alumni files to recruit former students to their side.
The audit report did not say who gave the money or legal work worth $3.2 million to Alliance, which operates 25 schools in the LA region with 12,000 students and has more than 600 teachers and counselors. The state auditor's goal was to determine if any of the anti-union funds spent by Alliance had been diverted from taxpayer funds. It concluded that Alliance set up separate accounts and had not dipped into the $157 million it got from state, federal, and local sources in fiscal year 2015-16.
While that finding sparked the “did not use public funds to fight unions” headline in local news that Alliance wanted, the audit noted that Alliance’s anti-union effort clearly violated federal privacy laws by giving information about former students to CCSA, which, in turn, recruited and paid some to deliver scripted messages. The report also stated that California law permits union drives at public schools, noting Alliance and UTLA have been in court where the chain has been ordered to cease illegal intimidation and threats.
But because auditors are state government’s accountants, their report mostly stuck to fiscal and privacy issues. As it parsed Alliance’s $3.2 million in anti-union expenses, it withheld a lot of details, such as not naming donors, who did the pro bono legal work or saying if these contributions were tax-deductible as the chain is a non-profit corporation.
However, UTLA officials have said Alliance retained Proskauer Rose LLP, a firm Largest Charter School Chain in LA Raises Millions in Dark Money to Fight Union Drive, State Auditor Finds | Alternet: