LA Unified's Carvalho Says He’ll Move To Resolve Archdiocese's Funding Lawsuit Against District
In a sharp shift in the district’s position, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Alberto Carvalho indicated that he would take steps to settle a lawsuit by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles charging the district illegally withheld millions of dollars in federal aid for low-income students attending parochial schools.
The Archdiocese filed the lawsuit in December on behalf of its schools serving 13,000 students in Watts, south and east Los Angeles. Carvalho, who inherited the lawsuit on taking over the job as superintendent last month, told EdSource in an interview he has familiarized himself with the case, would take steps in response, “and in the process, I’m going to resolve this issue sooner rather than later.” Because the matter is in litigation, Carvalho declined to give more details.
The lawsuit pertains to Title I funding that low-income private and parochial school students are eligible for, just as public school students are. The money pays for tutoring, teacher’s aides, math and reading coaches, additional teachers, counselors and other services. However, instead of directly funding the religious schools, Congress steers funding for them to districts, which oversee it and directly or, through vendors, provides the services for eligible students in private and religious schools.
For years, parochial schools had no difficulty establishing students’ Title I income eligibility, but that changed in 2018-19, with bleak financial projections for the district. An investigation by the California Department of Education found that LAUSD arbitrarily changed the rules multiple times with unreasonable deadlines, then cut 90% of the funding, from $9.5 million to less than $1 million. Since undistributed Title I funding stays with the district, LAUSD had an incentive to shortchange private schools, an attorney for the Archdiocese said. The department found that the district’s “hide-the-ball approach breached both the spirit and the letter” of the law.
“What I can tell you,” Carvalho told EdSource, “is that we need more objective, transparent tools by which we assess and fund this guaranteed federal entitlement that’s driven by poverty,” regardless of whether for a public or private school.
Jewish religious schools, which also have complained about the district’s handling of Title I funding, also would benefit from an out-of-court settlement.