Los Angeles violated federal law by slashing funds for low-income students at Catholic schools

Students listen to a teacher in a classroom. | Unsplash/NeONBRAND

Acting on a complaint filed by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the state of California has found that the public school district in Los Angeles slashed millions in funding that should have gone to low-income and disadvantaged students at Catholic schools.

The California Department of Education stated in a recent 58-page report that the Los Angeles Unified School District cut dozens of Catholic school recipients of Title I funds that aim to help disadvantaged students in areas of math, English and counseling. 

According to the report released in late June, the LAUSD blocked all but 17 Catholic school recipients of federal Title I funds in the 2019-2020 school year although there were more than 100 Catholic school recipients previously eligible.

The report called LAUSD’s action “egregious” considering that the school district received increased Title I funding compared to previous years, more than $349 million.  

Angelus magazine reports that the department revealed that the school district distributed less than 0.5% of the funding it received among private schools.

The CDE gave the LAUSD 60 days to establish “timely and meaningful consultation” with the archdiocese and to see if it failed to calculate the needs of students. The department ordered the school district to “provide the agreed-upon services to eligible archdiocesan students beginning by the start of the 2021-2022 school year.”

Paul Escala, the archdiocese's senior director and superintendent of Catholic schools, said the action “affirmed and validated what we have known for a very long time — that the most poor and vulnerable students we serve within the area of the Los Angeles Unified School District have been disenfranchised."

“There has been a very clear and — one can only deduce by the findings — methodical approach to find ways and means of reducing legally entitled resources to our children,” Escala said, according to the archdiocese-affiliated Catholic news outlet. 

Escala added that even if students attend private school, the school districts they live in are "obligated to provide them the resources necessary to supplement their educational programs." 

About 13,000 students qualify for services funded by the federal government through the school district, Escala told the Religion News Service. 

Escala explained that Catholic schools with a high number of children who need assistance have been impacted since 2018.

Escala said that “instructional coaches, teachers, individuals who were serving these children were told to pack their bags and their personal belongings and leave the school.”

“They were no longer assigned to those schools," he said. "These are schools that are already serving the poor, so they're already under-resourced and small and then have to figure out how to pay to supplement for the loss of those individuals.”

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