Children all over the U.S. are sent to school with the trust and confidence that they will receive a quality education with the appropriate services for their needs. Taxpayers also expect their dollars to be allocated and spent to benefit specific areas of public service, including public education. The leadership of one California school district is under scrutiny for inconsistencies between revenue and spending, and how those inconsistencies have detracted from student opportunities since 2018.
Bellflower Unified School District in Los Angeles, CA has placed its superintendent on administrative leave following a scathing audit that revealed the district was not using its substantial amount of funding for required student services or proposed student programs, inaccurately reporting budgets and spending to the board.
What the State Audit Revealed
The audit revealed that while the district had amassed a massive budget of about $83 million during the 2020-21 fiscal year, district leadership had repeatedly failed to spend the minimum budget required to meet the basic academic needs of its student body despite low test scores, and low college-readiness rates. It was found that the district spent from 9% – 31% below its annual budget each year over the last six years.
Among other issues, the audit uncovered severe inadequacies in the district’s adherence to state laws regarding services and support for students with disabilities and a disproportionate number of formal complaints that had been filed against the district for unresolved issues with special education programs. In the past five years, Bellflower Unified School District received 15 formal complaints, of which 14 resulting hearings decided that the district had not complied with at least one special education law.
The state’s Office of Administrative Hearings also found evidence that Bellflower Unified School District failed to protect its student population with disabilities in several ways:
- Students who demonstrated indicators of needing academic support were not assessed
- Services were not provided to students as required by their Individualized Education Programs
- Students who were struggling to access education did not receive a change in services or adjusted accommodations
- A lack of measurable goals included in students’ special education programs
- Noncompliance with special education laws
Next Steps to Restore Best Practices
A number of recommendations with deadlines spanning from August 2022 to December 2022 have been put in place by the state in an effort to redirect Bellflower’s spending, budgeting, and allocation of funds. To reconcile lost resources and opportunities for students, the audit recommends a deadline of December 2022 for the district to meet compliance requirements for students with disabilities in the following areas:
- Review all current student IEPs and validate that each IEP is in compliance with all special education laws and that all listed services are met
- Instate an annual review of all student IEPs to ensure each IEP is in compliance with special education laws and ensure that all listed services will be met
- Take steps to create a strong and proactive system for identifying and evaluating students who may have a disability
- And by October 2022 the district should review any instances of noncompliance, determine the reason for the noncompliance, and take steps to resolve the issue
How an Education Rights Attorney Can Help
If your child is a student of Bellflower Unified School District who has not been receiving appropriate services, contact the law offices of Jennifer Chang as soon as possible to review the nature of your case. It is crucial to seek legal assistance as early as possible when navigating district-wide concerns that have a vast impact.
Jennifer is a Los Angeles education rights attorney with a record of successful negotiation, advocacy, and litigation who can help your family achieve the results you need in order to help your child fully access their education.
Contact the offices of Jennifer Chang today to schedule a consultation about your case.