Pass / Fail | So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Charter schools chain cut costs and reformed spending to stay open

The head of Inner City Education Foundation - ICEF - Public Schools, Parker Hudnut, detailed cost cutting and major philanthropic help as he described a two-year effort that’s led the 14-campus charter school company on a financial turnaround.

 Hudnut came on board a year and a half ago.  Philanthropists had donated about $10 million to keep the doors open the year before, but that wasn’t enough.

“We had a $2 million payroll due 72 hours after I started, we had $15,000 in the bank and no more money coming in from the state," Hudnut said. "That was my first week on the job."

ICEF laid off 100 employees, changed its spending habits and scrutinized every line item on its budget. Sitting down with principals, Hudnut said, led to a nearly two-thirds cut to ICEF’s $700,000 annual security budget.

“There’s one school that had three armed guards who were all retired, former or off-duty LAPD," said Hudnut. "Very formidable. Well, it’s amazing what you can do with one off-duty and then two unarmed people elsewhere on the campus to make sure you’re securing the campus."

ICEF now holds principals more accountable for campus budgets now. It spends $40 million  a year to educate 4,200 students at charter schools in South L.A. and Inglewood. Chris Meadors said the reforms have affected the quality of his two teenagers’ education.

“Computer classes have diminished greatly," said Meadors. "The arts have been cut back. Those are things that I feel the kids need."

ICEF officials highlighted a 98 percent graduation rate and 88 percent alumni enrollment in two- and four-year colleges. The schools’ chief executive said the organization’s financial overhaul will allow him to focus on improving academic performance.