A public school teacher and a parent in Orange County, California, filed a legal complaint today against Magnolia Charter Schools accusing the charter organization of violating state and federal law by improperly using state and federal funds, maintaining poor internal controls and financial  accounting, and utilizing nepotistic vendor selection.

The complaint describes a revolving door between the Magnolia board and its vendors, and even shared business addresses. The complaint asserts that the California Department of Education has “failed to take meaningful action” despite its own findings of misdeeds.

“It's like the state screaming, 'Come and get this money that's supposed to be for our schools. We’ll look the other way while you spend it on other things,’” said complainant Tina Andres, a Santa Ana teacher. “It just invites corruption and fraud. That’s not what charter schools are supposed to do.” Andres’ son attends a charter school in Orange County.

Andres joined Jose Moreno, an Anaheim parent, and Amsterdam & Partners LLP law firm on the complaint which was filed with the California Department of Education under the Uniform Complaint Procedure process. It can be viewed here. 

The complaint calls for a comprehensive investigation by the State Department of Education. It cites findings made last year by the state in an audit of Magnolia including that 69% of Magnolia's financial transactions were unaccounted for; that Magnolia routinely awards large contracts to vendors that have overlapping connections with their own employees and board of directors; and that Magnolia has illegally used hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to pay for visas for Turkish nationals.

The complaint states that all three of these activities are hallmarks of Gülen charters. Magnolia has denied ties to Gülen, an organization under investigation by the Turkish and United States governments.  

Magnolia is headed by Caprice Young, former president of the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and founder of the powerful lobby, the California Charter Schools Association. Under Young's leadership, Magnolia runs 11 schools, including eight in LAUSD, and recently submitted petitions for eight more schools in Anaheim, LAUSD, Garden Grove, Fremont, and Oceanside. The complaint states that if all eight charter schools were to be approved, the cost to the state of California would be in the billions of dollars.

The complaint presses the regulatory authorities to take immediate action before Magnolia's additional charters could be approved.