- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 24, 2017

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana’s top school board voted Tuesday to create new public charter schools, despite questions about how the state will pay for them amid ongoing litigation that has put financing for more than 30 similar schools in doubt.

The uncertainty didn’t slow the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, known as BESE, from authorizing three more of the schools to open in the fall, two in East Baton Rouge Parish and one in Lafayette Parish.

But a lawsuit has threatened the financing for such schools.

Superintendent of Education John White supported the applications that received board backing, saying the charter organizations had gone through a rigorous review process that ensured high quality. He and charter school supporters said the lawsuit shouldn’t stall worthy applications.

“We should use discretion, but we cannot wait to serve the needs of at-risk children,” White told the board during committee testimony.

Charter schools are public schools, funded with taxpayer dollars but operated by independent organizations with more freedom, under agreements approved by state or local education officials.

An appellate court ruled this month that money from Louisiana’s public school funding formula - which determines how state and local tax dollars flow to public school districts - can’t pay for the schools granted charters by BESE, rather than local school boards.

A number of local education officials and a teachers union, the Louisiana Association of Educators, argued in lawsuits that funding the state-chartered schools through a formula meant to pay for local school districts violates the Louisiana Constitution. The 1st Circuit Court of Appeal agreed in a 3-2 decision. The ruling covers 32 schools, with more than 16,000 students.

The effect of that ruling is on hold, while the case continues to wind its way to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Representatives of the union and local school boards said BESE should not authorize new charter schools without a decision from the Supreme Court about how the schools can be financed.

“We have to be responsible as far as what we do in making promises to children and parents,” said Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators. “At this point, no one knows how that case will turn out.”

Lawmakers could opt to fund the charters separately from the formula, but it’s unclear if they would choose to do so. Such a decision would require full state financing, rather than paying for the schools with a mix of state and local tax dollars. That would boost costs for Louisiana’s operating budget, as the state struggles with recurring financial problems.

In addition to charter schools that were approved, the state education board denied two other applications Tuesday for organizations seeking charters directly from BESE. Board members deadlocked in a 5-5 vote on a third application, leaving the organization unable to proceed with plans for a school in Avoyelles Parish.

___

Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/melindadeslatte .

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide