Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

State Supreme Court Looks at Constitutionality of Charter Funding

The Louisiana Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on the constitutionality of funding Type-2 charter schools through the MFP.

“Those are public schools. The state has an obligation to fund those schools,” Erin Bendily, the state Assistant Superintendent of Education says.

The controversy is based on who authorizes these schools, says Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, a teachers’ union that is one of the plaintiffs in the 2014 lawsuit..

“They do have to go to the school district first, but when the school district says no, then they often appeal to BESE,” Meaux explains. And BESE often overrides the local school board, creating and funding a new charter with the MFP’s combination of state and local tax dollars. That’s why the Iberville Parish School Board also sued, seeking the return of millions in school tax dollars. SCHOOL BOARD ATTORNEY JOHN MARK FEZIO:

“Taxpayers voted to approve taxes to support their local school system,” says Iberville School Board attorney John Mark Fezio. “The school board is not getting money because those students are going to the charter school.”

In March 2008, Iberville Parish taxpayers voted higher property taxes for creating and building a magnet academy. That school now regularly earns national performance awards, says Iberville Superintendent Edward Cancienne.

“They supported a tax that made this a reality. And look what we’ve achieved: just excellence.”

Verifying the performance claims for Iberville Magnet is where this story gets a bit muddy. While the BESE-created Type 2 school, Iberville Charter Academy earns a steady “F” in school performance scores (see photo#3 above), the magnet school – Iberville Math, Science and Arts Academy – doesn’t show up in the school performance scores listings (see photo#4 above).

I asked Iberville Chief Academic Officer Elvis cavalier about that, back in 2012.

“We do a lot of things that are a bit unorthodox,” he said.

He went on to explain that the scores of each student attending the magnet are credited to their neighborhood school, instead. That keeps the neighborhood schools’ performance scores up, and avoids the threat of state takeover for those schools. It also avoids the accompanying loss of MFP dollars.