Charter Groups Call Out Virtual Schools

In August 2014, there were 135 full-time virtual charter schools operating in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

A coalition of charter school advocates banded together Thursday to take a shot at some of their own – virtual charter schools – and urged state policymakers to tighten regulations on their lesser-known school-choice stepsisters, which have come under fire for poor student performance.

“When national groups that advocate for and champion charter schools question the impact of virtual charter schools on student achievement, policymakers should take note,” said Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning education policy organization.

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The groups – the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers – published a set of sweeping recommendations for how states should overhaul their virtual charter schools, complete with calls for shuttering the poorest performers.

Among the many detailed recommendations, the groups called on states to set minimum academic performance standards for virtual charter schools whose charters are in the process of being renewed, and for enforcement mechanisms to ensure that all charter schools, including full-time virtual charter schools, meet those minimums.

In addition, the groups recommended that states create a method to hold charter authorizers accountable for results, and said an entity should be tasked with regularly monitoring those authorizers’ performance. States should also require charter authorizers to show via annual audits that they are using all of their oversight money for oversight functions.

“These provisions are tailored to the unique problems that have emerged among too many full-time virtual charter schools, which require states to enact significant policy changes,” said Todd Ziebarth, senior vice president for state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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Greg Richmond, president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, urged those bodies also to work within existing state policy frameworks to close chronically low-performing virtual charter schools.

“Authorizers have a legal and a moral responsibility to close chronically low-performing charter schools of any kind, including full-time virtual charter schools,” he said. “In many cases, this would not require a change to state law.”

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As of August 2014, there were 135 full-time virtual charter schools operating in 23 states and the District of Columbia – about twice as many as in 2008 – and serving approximately 180,000 students. A majority of the schools are run by for-profit organizations and serve large numbers of poor and white students.

The recommendations come on the heels of reports by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research that showed when compared with their classroom-based traditional public school counterparts, full-time virtual charter schools fail across multiple metrics.

For example, in math and reading in a given year, full-time virtual charter school students learn essentially no math compared with their peers in classroom-based traditional public schools, according to the Center for Research on Education Outcomes report. In fact, students in virtual charters, the report showed, experienced the equivalent of 180 fewer days of learning in math and 72 fewer days of learning in reading in comparison with traditional public school students.

Moreover, all subgroups of students enrolled in virtual schools – including when students are broken down by race, economic background and native language, as well as students in special education – reportedly perform worse in terms of academic growth than their classroom-based peers.

“If traditional public schools were producing such results, we would rightly be outraged,” the groups charged in their set of recommendation. “We should not feel any different just because these are charter schools.”

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The recommendations underscore that there is a place for virtual charter schools, especially for rural students seeking to avoid a lengthy bus ride, home- or hospital-bound youth who want to stay in school despite an illness, and high school students looking for an alternative to dropping out.

Still, the groups called on state policymakers to ensure the sector is more tightly monitored so students are not slipping through the cracks.

“A few states have opted to simply ban full-time virtual charter schools, but this solution risks limiting parental choice without giving otherwise high-performing virtual charter schools a chance to operate,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “This is why we need a better regulatory framework to govern full-time virtual charter schools.”

Eight states do not allow full-time virtual charter schools, according to the alliance report: Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Virginia.

Currently, enrollment in full-time virtual charter schools is highly concentrated in three states – Ohio, Pennsylvania and California – which collectively enroll over half of full-time virtual charter school students nationwide, according to National Alliance research.

In Ohio alone, some schools enroll upward of 10,000 students.

“If Ohio leaders are serious about improving student outcomes for virtual-school students, they’d be wise to consider these recommendations,” Aldis said.

Pa. seeks financial, contract info from Agora Cyber Charter

Updated:May 24, 2016 — 6:39 PM EDT

by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER martha.woodall@phillynews.com @marwooda

The state Department of Education has expanded the scope of information that the Agora Cyber Charter School must provide by a deadline Friday.

A May 20 letter obtained by the Inquirer shows the department has directed the virtual charter based in King of Prussia to turn over detailed information about its finances, contracts and consultants.

Spokeswomen for the department and Agora confirmed the letter Tuesday.

The communication follows a May 16 letter in which the department told the charter with 8,500 students to submit accurate data on testing and attendance by the deadline or the department “will take appropriate actions against the school.”

The letters express the department’s growing impatience with Agora. Officials have been pressing the cyber for information about its operations since it laid off scores of employees in February without informing the state.

David W. Volkman, the department’s executive deputy secretary, wrote both letters.

He has told Agora that its problems providing requested information appear to be “another symptom of Agora’s ongoing operational issues.”

Since last August, Agora has been led by four leaders and experienced turnover on its board.

Last week, the current three-member board voted to retain Jon Marsh, the former CEO of 21st Century Cyber in Downingtown, to manage the school’s day-to-day operations and be an advisor.

In Volkman’s most recent letter, he asked Agora for monthly financial reports for this fiscal year; copies of contracts negotiated after Jan. 1 and copies of contracts with all independent consultants hired since Jan. 1, including Marsh.

JoAnn Gigliotti, an Agora spokeswoman, said in an e-mail Tuesday that the cyber was working to deliver the data and financial records the department requested.

The cyber has been seeking a five-year renewal of its operating agreement from the Education Department since October 2014. The department oversees Agora and the other 12 cyber charters, which provide online instruction to students in their homes.

“The department is continuing its comprehensive review of Agora Cyber Charter School as required to evaluate the school’s charter renewal,” a department spokeswoman said.

Agora is the second-largest cyber in the state. Its proposed budget for the current fiscal year of $110.2 million was based on an enrollment of 9,140 students, which it did not reach. The revenue comes primarily from taxpayer-funded tuition paid by students’ home districts.

Volkman has said that Agora’s problems recording student attendance raise concerns about whether the cyber is submitting accurate invoices to school districts and is billing for students who are no longer enrolled.

He also said that Agora’s data issues affect its ability to meet state and federal reporting requirements, which could jeopardize federal funding.

Many current and former Agora parents and staffers say some of Agora’s recent problems stem from the end of its management contract with K12 Inc., the for-profit company in Herndon, Va.

In 2014 the board voted to end K12’s management contract and said that Agora would begin managing itself in 2015-16.

According to some parents and teachers, Agora was not ready for the transition. They said numerous problems developed with the systems and software the cyber purchased to replace the technology that K12 had provided.

Volkman’s most recent letter asks for copies of contracts Agora awarded or renegotiated after Jan. 1 related to the cyber’s transition to self-management.

Pa. seeks more data from Agora Cyber Charter

Updated:May 25, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT

by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER martha.woodall@phillynews.com

The state Department of Education has expanded the scope of information that the Agora Cyber Charter School must provide by Friday.

A letter dated last Friday and obtained by the Inquirer shows the department has directed the virtual charter, based in King of Prussia, to turn over detailed information about its finances, contracts, and consultants.

Spokeswomen for the department and Agora confirmed the letter Tuesday.

The communication follows a May 16 letter in which the department told the charter, with 8,500 students, to submit accurate data on testing and attendance by the deadline or the department “will take appropriate actions against the school.”

The letters express the department’s growing impatience with Agora. Officials have been pressing the cyber for information about its operations since it laid off scores of employees in February without informing the state.

David W. Volkman, the department’s executive deputy secretary, wrote both letters.

He has told Agora that its problems providing requested information appear to be “another symptom of Agora’s ongoing operational issues.”

Since last August, Agora has been led by four leaders and experienced turnover on its board.

Last week, the current three-member board voted to retain Jon Marsh, the former CEO of 21st Century Cyber in Downingtown, to manage the school’s day-to-day operations and be an adviser.

In Volkman’s most recent letter, he asked Agora for monthly financial reports for this fiscal year, copies of contracts negotiated after Jan. 1, and copies of contracts with all independent consultants hired since Jan. 1, including Marsh.

JoAnn Gigliotti, an Agora spokeswoman, said in an email Tuesday that the school was working to deliver the data and financial records the department requested.

The school has been seeking a five-year renewal of its operating agreement from the Education Department since October 2014. The department oversees Agora and the 12 other cyber charters, which provide online instruction to students in their homes.

“The department is continuing its comprehensive review of Agora Cyber Charter School as required to evaluate the school’s charter renewal,” a department spokeswoman said.

Agora is the second-largest cyber charter in the state. Its proposed budget for the current fiscal year of $110.2 million was based on enrollment of 9,140 students, which it did not reach. The revenue comes primarily from taxpayer-funded tuition paid by students’ home districts.

Volkman has said that Agora’s problems recording student attendance raise concerns about whether the cyber is submitting accurate invoices to school districts and is billing for students who are no longer enrolled.

He also said that Agora’s data issues affect its ability to meet state and federal reporting requirements, which could jeopardize federal funding.

Many current and former Agora parents and staffers say some of Agora’s recent problems stem from the end of its management contract with K12 Inc., a for-profit company in Herndon, Va.

In 2014, the board voted to end K12’s management contract and said Agora would begin managing itself in 2015-16.

According to some parents and teachers, Agora was not ready for the transition. They said numerous problems developed with the systems and software the school purchased to replace the technology that K12 had provided.

Volkman’s most recent letter asks for copies of contracts Agora awarded or renegotiated after Jan. 1 related to the transition to self-management.

K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN) Reports Bad News, But Blames Contract Changes

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The management of K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN) has attempted to explain why its headline result for F3Q2016 couldn’t match a similar quarter last year: changes in a major client account. Revenue in F3Q2016 as well as in the nine months to March 2016 fell compared to a similar period a year earlier because of the same reason.

The affected client account was that of Agora Cyber Charter School. K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN) said that contracted moved to Non-managed from Managed program, thus causing revenue disruption.

What was the report for 1Q?

K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN)’s F3Q2016 revenue of $221.3 million marked a pullback from $224.6 million in a similar quarter a year ago. Non-GAAP EBITDA of $36.7 million also fell from $45.2 million in the previous year.

Almost all of K12’s key financial metrics fell in the latest quarter compared to a year ago because operating income of $19.1 million was down from $27.4 million in 1Q2015. Net income attributable to common shareholders contracted to $14.3 million from $17 million and diluted EPS attributable to common shareholders shrunk to $0.37 from $0.45.

What about the nine months to end of March?

The narrative was largely the same. Revenue of $651.4 million in the first nine months of F2016 was down from $712.6 million in the first nine months of F2015. Non-GAAP EBITDA of $64 million pulled back from $87 million and operating income of $13.4 million sharply down from $34.7 million.

K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN) further reported that net income attributable to common shareholders of $10 million was down from $22.6 million in the initial nine months of F2015. The same story went for diluted EPS attributable to shareholders that came in at $0.26 relative to $0.60 in the initial nine months of F2015.

Performance in line with expectations

Despite the pullback in both the results of F3Q2016 and the first nine months of F2015, CEO, Stuart Udell, insisted that the company continues to achieve results according to its guidance for the year. Perhaps that is another way of saying that the transition of the Agora Cyber Charter School contract was expected and had been baked in the projections for the year.

What about the future?

For F4Q2016, K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN) is looking for revenue in the band of $205 to $215 million. Operating income for the quarter is expected to be between $5 million and $9 million.

Online Charter School Operator K12 Names New CEO


Feb 9, 2016


K12, a for-profit operator of online charter schools, has named Stuart J. Udell as its CEO. Udell previously served as the CEO of Catapult Learning, a provider of K12 instructional services and professional development. K12 said in a statement that Udell doubled Catapult’s revenue during his tenure. He also worked for 11 years at Kaplan, finishing his term there as president of Kaplan K12 Learning Services.

According to Edweek Market Brief, Udell replaces Nathaniel Davis, who will remain at the company as executive chairman of its board of directors. K12 has been a hotbed of activity of late, launching a foundation after facing a chaotic shareholder meeting when investors censured the former CEO for high pay.

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K12 Inc. Names Stuart Udell, Former Catapult Learning Official, as CEO

Major online education provider K12 Inc., a favorite target of critics of the for-profit school industry, has named former Catapult Learning official Stuart J. Udell as its CEO.

Udell replaces Nate Davis, who K12 said would remain connected to the Herndon, Va.-based company by serving as executive chairman of its board of directors.

K12 Inc. has weathered a tumultuous period of changes over the past few years. Its enrollment numbers and overall performance have disappointed investors. This week the company’s stock was trading at $10 a share, down from $16.53 a year ago and $36.78 a little over two years ago.

In 2014 K12 suffered a big blow when the 10,800-student Agora Cyber Charter School in Pennsylvania ditched the private management company in favor of managing its own operations.

That same year K12 rebranded a number of its resources under a separate legal entity called Fuel Education, focusing on “personalized learning” platforms, as well as consulting, teacher professional development, and online courses.

Udell most recently served as CEO of Catapult Learning Inc., a commercial provider of instructional services and professional development, and an operator of schools. On its website, Catapult Learning describes itself as the largest provider of contracted K-12 services in the United States.

In July, Catapult Learning, which provides Title I and dropout-prevention services, announced that it would merge with Special Educational Services Inc., an operator of alternative schools. Combined, the companies said they would serve 300,000 students through direct instruction and proprietary technology programs.

Udell nearly doubled Catapult Learning’s revenue during his tenure, K12 said in a statement. He also worked for 11 years at Kaplan, at one point serving as president of Kaplan K12 Learning Services, building the organization’s school division, according to biographical information released by K12. From 1997-2001, he also served as president of the School Renaissance Institute, a subsidiary of Renaissance Learning focused on training, publishing, and research. He came back to Renaissance Learning in 2012, and served on its board of directors until 2014.

Davis said Udell’s “depth of experience and track record of success in education uniquely qualifies him to lead K12 and continue the progress we’ve made in improving academic outcomes, and preparing a new generation of students to succeed.”

Critics have pointed to the poor academic performance of students enrolled in K12 students on some states‘ tests, compared to those of students enrolled in regular public schools. They have also questioned the organization’s business practices, accusing it of focusing on aggressive marketing and recruitment rather than academic improvement. K12 officials have countered that their schools provide a valuable option for families whose children have struggled in traditional academic settings, and that comparisons between their schools and regular public schools don’t factor in the differences in the populations they serve,  or students’ different academic circumstances.


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Virtual charter schools in Broward, Palm Beach could close following audits

Broward committee recommends closing virtual charter school

A pair of virtual charter schools in Palm Beach and Broward counties may soon shut down, following complaints of poor student performance, allegations of ethical breaches and hostility between the schools’ governing board and management company

An audit committee for Broward County schools recommended Thursday that the district terminate its contract with Florida Virtual Academy at Broward, which has been operating for three years.

The school’s governing board, the South Florida Virtual Charter School Board, also oversees Florida Virtual Academy at Palm Beach, which has been under review since Octoberby the Palm Beach County School District’s Inspector General. Together they serve about 350 students.

The charter schools are not affiliated with Florida Virtual School, the longtime state-run online education program.

“Our intent is to move forward with the recommendations and come to some kind of closure process, either voluntary or otherwise,” Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said.

And indeed, the schools in both counties may close voluntarily, said Philip Morgaman, president and CEO of the South Florida Charter School Board.

“Voluntary dissolution is a viable alternative, and it’s certainly one of the alternatives our board will consider, and it may very well be the most likely,” he said.

Morgaman said he wants to receive the Palm Beach County audit before holding a special board meeting. He said that would likely happen at the end of the school year, so students wouldn’t be displaced mid-term.

The Broward auditfound numerous academic deficiencies at the school. It said the school failed to provide evidence that students were receiving the required instructional time for reading, failed to provide a “clear and comprehensive grading system,” and failed to show it was following state law in regard to serving students with disabilities and limited English skills. The state is also penalizing the school by $200,000 because too many students failed their end-of-course exams.

Both schools received grades of D in 2013-14. The state hasn’t released grades for the 2014-15 school year.

Jeff Kwitowski, a spokesman for management company K12 Inc., which oversaw the school’s academics, declined to comment on the Broward audit or the possibility that the two schools may get shut down. The company also runs online charter schools in six other counties in the state, but they would not be affected by the actions of the South Florida board, Kwitowski said.

Problems involving the two schools came to light in October after K12 Inc. sent a letter to the Broward and Palm Beach counties’ superintendents accusing Morgaman of violating Florida’s ethics laws.

At issue were a $60,000 check written from the schools’ account to the United Schools Association, a Deerfield Beach-based nonprofit for which Morgaman serves as chairman and CEO, and a $40,000 check paid to Dane G. Taylor, the nonprofit’s chief administrative officer.

The letter prompted investigations from both counties. The Palm Beach County School District’s inspector general is still reviewing it but Broward County auditors agreed the board’s actions violated state statutes.

Morgaman said the United Schools Association served as the pass-through for the $60,000, and that the money actually went to other vendors. He said the board was trying to find consultants to help improve the schools, whose students have performed poorly.

He said the company agreed to repay the $60,000to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest.

Morgaman said Taylor’s employment with the charter school board was independent of his work with the nonprofit association. Taylor’s work has included radio spots and other aspects of an advertising campaign, communicating with K12 and doing research.

The auditors found the money was paid to Taylor before he provided services, a violation of state rules.

stravis@sunsentinel.com or 561-243-6637 or 954-425-1421

Craig Barrett Makes $190,000 As a K12 Inc. Board Member

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By David Safier

on at 2:30 PM

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Over the years, I’ve written many posts about the shoddy corporate practices and poor student performance at schools run by K12 Inc., the for-profit, publicly traded online education corporation (Its Arizona charter school, Arizona Virtual Academy, has 4,600 students sitting behind their computers at home, if, that is, they actually take the time and effort to log in and do the work). I wrote my most recent post about the corporations’s sinking stock value a few weeks ago. And I’ve written a few times that Arizona’s Craig Barrett sits on K12 Inc.’s Board of Directors. But this is the first time I’ve written about his compensation. For the fiscal year 2015, Barrett received $190,000 from the corporation. Barrett is a very, very busy man with his fingers in a whole lot of pies. You can be certain he didn’t put in 40 hour weeks to earn his Board pay.

Why, you may ask, should we care about Barrett’s involvement in K12 Inc.? The answer is, Barrett is a powerful voice in Arizona education, advocating for what he says are necessary reforms to improve our schools. He’s not shy when it comes to talking about his connections and accomplishments. For instance, he’s happy to announce that he’s President and Chairman of BASIS Schools, Inc., the for-profit Education Management Organization that runs the chain of BASIS schools. But so far as I know, he never talks about his connection to the shoddy, failing K12 Inc. I’ve looked hard on the internet, read his op eds, listened to some of his interviews and speeches. When it comes to K12 Inc. — nothing but crickets. A man as proud of his accomplishments as Barrett should be more open about this aspect of his educational life, and more forthcoming about what he, as a board member, is doing to improve the corporate and educational culture at K12 Inc.

Craig Barrett’s list of connections and accomplishments is vast. He’s the retired CEO of Intel, and he’s worth hundreds of millions of dollars. As I mentioned earlier, he’s President and Chairman of BASIS Schools Inc. He’s also a board member of Achieve, Inc., which was instrumental in creating and promoting the Common Core standards, as well as an influential member of any number of education-related organizations. He travels around the world promoting STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), and he’s very outspoken about what he thinks is wrong with Arizona education and what should be done to fix it. His ideas fall squarely in the privatization/”education reform” camp. During Jan Brewer’s governorship, he chaired her Arizona Ready Education Council which worked to steer the state’s education priorities, most of which are being carried forward by Gov. Ducey’s Classrooms First Initiative Council. It’s fair to say he’s the most powerful unelected individual in Arizona education.

So if he sees himself a good-education advocate, especially an outspoken one who touts the successes of BASIS schools as a model for other schools, he should feel a duty to explain the way his $190,000 a year position on the K12 Inc. board is part of his commitment to improving education in Arizona and nationwide. Maybe there’s more value in the corporation’s online school model, which has been so regularly and roundly criticized, even from people within the “education reform” movement, than we know. Maybe he’s working inside the corporation to improve its operations and education delivery system. A man as well spoken as Barrett, a man who writes as well as Barrett, a man who can command a public forum as easily as Barrett, should really make an effort to explain this questionable aspect of his educational involvement.

BASIS BOARD MEMBER Bonus News:  How much does Craig Barrett make as President and Chairman of BASIS Schools Inc.? I don’t know, because it isn’t a matter of public record. BASIS Schools Inc. is a for-profit Education Management Organization, so, though nearly all of its income is taxpayer money which the state gives to its charter schools, once the money that flows from the state budget to charter schools is sent upstairs and hidden behind a for-profit pay wall, it disappears from view. We don’t know if Barrett and other board members are paid, and if so, how much. We have no idea how much money BASIS founders Michael and Olga Block make. We used to know back when BASIS was entirely nonprofit and the Blocks had to report their salaries on the nonprofit’s publicly available 990 tax forms, but no more.

But it’s interesting to see who sits on the board of BASIS Schools, Inc. Of course, there’s Craig Barrett, a man whose political and educational priorities lean conservative. And there’s co-founder Michael Block, who has worked as a consultant for ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), an organization whose main mission is to create conservative legislation which can become state law across the country. Also sitting on the seven member board is Clint Bolick, whom Gov. Ducey just appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court. Bolick is currently the head of the Goldwater Institute’s constitutional litigation team. Another board member, Terry Sarvas, is a member of the Goldwater Institute, and yet another, Steve Twist, is a founder of the Goldwater Institute.

BASIS’s conservative credentials run wide and deep — which is fine, of course, perfectly acceptable, but well worth noting.

Investors and Teachers Unions Upbraid Online Charter School Operator K12


Dec 17, 2015

THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT: K12, an online charter school provider, held its annual investor meeting December 16 to disastrous results. Investors voted down the company’s plan for executive pay, and teachers unions and representatives from K12’s own schools protested outside the meeting. Advisory firm Glass Lewis & Co. advised shareholders to vote against the pay proposal because of a “substantial disconnect between compensation and performance results,” Buzzfeed News reports. K12’s stock is down 75 percent from a high in 2013.

K12 is faced with damning evidence. A 2015 report found that students enrolled in K12’s schools and other online charters did not measure up to their peers at offline schools. California’s attorney general Kamala Harris has also opened an investigation into K12’s practices. As for the executive pay, K12 paid CEO Nathaniel Davis $5.33 million and its chief financial officer $3.6 million in 2015.

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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Unveils Bureau of Children’s Justice

In First Action, New Bureau Sends Letters to All California Counties Reviewing Responsibilities for Foster Care System Oversight

Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today unveiled the Bureau of Children’s Justice within the California Department of Justice that will work to ensure all of California’s children are on track to meet their full potential. In the Bureau’s first action, Attorney General Harris sent a letter to officials in all 58 counties in California, outlining their legal responsibilities with regard to foster youth and urging each county to evaluate their current enforcement and oversight policies and practices.

The Bureau will enforce criminal and civil laws to hold those who prey on children accountable; work with a range of local, state, and national stakeholders to increase support for vulnerable children to prevent bad outcomes; and identify and pursue improvements to policies impacting children.

“We simply cannot let down our most vulnerable children today, then lock them up tomorrow and act surprised,” said Attorney General Harris.  “The Bureau of Children’s Justice will continue our smart on crime approach by addressing the root causes of crime, including our broken foster care system, and making certain that California’s children receive full protection under the law and equal opportunities to succeed.   One of the Bureau’s first orders of business will be to look at enforcement gaps in the foster care system and ensure that government agencies are held accountable to those entrusted in their care.”  

Attorney General Harris’ letter to counties lays out their responsibilities in protecting children in foster care and overseeing the agencies that provide direct services to these children. In the coming months, the Bureau will focus on identifying accountability and enforcement gaps in the foster system to ensure children have the support they need.

“We are thrilled that Attorney General Harris is making children her top priority with this new Bureau,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now. “Given the Attorney General’s past leadership and success with reducing chronic absence and suspensions in California, I’m confident the new Bureau will be very positive for children.”

“I’m happy to join Attorney General Harris in shining a spotlight on the importance of safeguarding our children,” said Diana S. Dooley, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency. “We at the California Health and Human Services Agency place a high interest and priority on addressing childhood trauma and we are committed with our county and community partners to meet the needs of all of our kids.”

The Bureau will draw on the civil and criminal law enforcement capacity of the California Department of Justice and build on CADOJ’s existing work on key issues affecting children. Core priorities for the newly formed bureau include

  • California’s foster care, adoption, and juvenile justice systems
  • Discrimination and inequities in education
  • California’s elementary school truancy crisis
  • Human trafficking of vulnerable youth
  • Childhood trauma and exposure to violence

Attorney General Harris also announced that the California Department of Justice was one of just three state agencies accepted by the U.S. Department of Justice to be part of its national Defending Childhood Initiative. Through this initiative, California will work to improve outcomes for children exposed to trauma by ensuring that at-risk children are screened for exposure to violence at school, when they visit a pediatrician, or when they become involved with child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

“I commend Attorney General Harris for taking this important step to protect the youngest and most vulnerable Californians,” said Dr. Robert K. Ross, President and CEO, The California Endowment.  “The Bureau of Children’s Justice will watch over our state’s legal system and guarantee greater protection for our children, safeguarding their physical, social and emotional health and helping to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to grow up healthy and safe.”

The Bureau will expand CADOJ’s efforts to combat the crisis of elementary school truancy, piloting programs with school districts to improve attendance and launching a new partnership with University of California, Santa Barbara to ensure these pilots can be replicated across the state.

The Bureau draws on Attorney General Harris’ expertise as a career prosecutor focusing on sexual and physical crimes against children and her commitment to defending every child in California. Attorney General Harris served two terms as District Attorney of San Francisco, where she created a child sexual assault unit. She also led the San Francisco City Attorney’s Division on Children and Families and specialized in prosecuting child sexual assault cases at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

The Bureau will be staffed by attorneys and experts on legal issues impacting children, including civil rights, education, consumer protection, nonprofit charities, child welfare, privacy and identity theft, fraud, and human trafficking.

To view the letter to counties, click here: http://bit.ly/1vHdkg7