In a decision that could restore millions of dollars to Catholic schools, the state of California has ruled that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) violated federal law in ways that slashed assistance for academically struggling students in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

The 58-page “investigation report,” issued June 25 by the California Department of Education gives LAUSD 60 days to establish “timely and meaningful consultation” with the archdiocese and to rectify any errors in calculating student need. It orders LAUSD to “Provide the agreed-upon services to eligible archdiocesan students beginning by the start of the 2021-2022 school year.”

The archdiocese filed a complaint in September 2019, after LAUSD blocked all but 17 of more than 100 previously eligible Catholic schools from receiving federal Title I funds, which assist underperforming students with math, English and counseling. The report called LAUSD’s action “egregious.”

In the three years prior to 2019, LAUSD received an annual average of around $291 million in Title I funds and distributed between 2% and 2.6% among private schools, according to figures in the report. But in 2019, when it cut the Catholic recipients from 102 to 17, the district had received more than $349 million for Title 1 — an increase over earlier years — but distributed less than 0.5% among private schools.

The total amount shared with private schools dropped from roughly $7.5 million to $1.7 million. Catholic schools reported receiving about $190,000 or 11% of the total for private schools. The Department of Catholic Schools is the largest private school system in the LA area.

Archdiocesan officials expressed surprise at the sudden change in LAUSD tactics after decades of what the Church considered to be an effective partnership between private schools and the school district.

Paul Escala, senior director and superintendent of Catholic schools, described it as a “David versus Goliath” victory for Catholic students.

The decision “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,” Escala told Angelus News.

“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….”

The above comes from a July 18 story in Angelus News.