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L.A. charter school group secures $10.5-million bailout

December 9, 2010 |  8:05 am

A struggling nonprofit that runs 15 Los Angeles charter schools announced Thursday it had secured $10.5 million in donations that will enable it to remain open.

ICEF Public Schools operates 15 schools in south and southwest Los Angeles, with a clientele that is largely African American and a mix of low- and middle-income families.

Former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan, the new ICEF board chair, contributed $2.2 million. An additional $2 million each has come from billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad and Palmer Murray of the Otis Booth Foundation.

Netflix founder Reed Hastings chipped in $750,000 and the Gates Foundation added $500,000. Other major donors were the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Frank Baxter, Jamie and Julie Kellner, Craig and Susan McCaw and Jim and Judy O’Brien.

Charter schools are independently managed and families can enroll free of charge. ICEF schools have recorded generally higher test scores than nearby traditional public schools. But as some observers note, as schools of choice, they may have more academically motivated students.

Beyond academics, ICEF has prided itself on offering a richer program than some other charters, including an array of arts programs and sports.

Despite past philanthropic support, the company had fallen on hard times because of the state budget crisis and overspending. This fall, its available cash fund crashed to almost zero under a mountain of debt and a delay in the arrival of state money it was owed.

“Christmas has come early,” said Riordan in a statement. “We are thrilled that ICEF’s 4,500 students will continue to receive a top-notch college-prep education without key ingredients being compromised — academics, athletics and the arts.”

Cost-cutting has included installing two campuses on the same site and substantial layoffs in the teaching and administrative staffs.


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L.A. school board approves wide-ranging pact with charters

-- Howard Blume