A Costa Mesa, Calif. charter school is under fire from the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) for allegedly collecting funds from students, exaggerating its daily attendance rate, and utilizing a building without the proper permits.
The International School for Science and Culture (ISSAC) was established in 2019 and has since collected funds from students in the form of child care fees. Its teacher aids supervised children for $30 each per day.
However, the child care was offered during school hours, and it is against the law for parents to pay for their children to receive instruction at a charter or public school.
“ISSAC never knowingly or intentionally charged a student for receiving instruction,” ISSAC Chair Sally Chou said in a statement read by board member Thu Nguyen during a June 16 Orange County Board of Education (OCBE) meeting.
“We know this is clearly prohibited by the law.”
ISSAC has paused all child care billing as of April 1, and said it intends to refund parents for all child care costs.
“Unfortunately, ISSAC board of directors was not aware of the child care fees until early March,” Chou said. “All of the fees collected will be refunded by the end of June.”
OCDE Director Aracely Chastain questioned whether instruction was being offered during the “child care.”
“She may have called it child care, but we know that kids were logging onto Zoom for asynchronous [or] synchronous learning,” Chastain said during the OCBE meeting. “There was a period of time when there was a teacher there.”
ISSAC reported the amount of child care fees collected from the 2020–2021 school year but has yet to send in such documentation to the board for the 2019–2020.
“Some of these families claimed these fees as deductions on their taxes,” Chastain said.
The OCDE has issued additional notices of concern to ISSAC regarding over-reporting their enrollment to the state, and thereby receiving more funding.
The school allegedly reported an enrollment of 150 students for the 2020–2021 school year, when the budget submitted by the school to the county overplayed a projected growth of another 100 students. The state overpaid the school due to inaccurate attendance figures.
ISSAC wouldn’t need to write a check back to the state, but apportionment for next school year would be reduced proportionately to cover what was overpaid by the state previously.
ISSAC also held classes at a facility at the Boys and Girls Club in Costa Mesa, a building not zoned for instruction.
The charter relocated from the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in July 2020. However, school officials didn’t obtain the conditional use permits required for offering instruction.
ISSAC will appear before the OCBE and may be issued a notice of violation on July 7.
ISSAC is set to begin school on Aug. 23, although there was discussion during the board meeting of extending the start date to September to allow the charter to correct its mistakes.