Monday, November 11, 2013

Stop Predatory Charters!

The following is a letter to the editor by BESE member Dr. Lottie Beebe. I believe this letter alerts us to an extremely disruptive force in Louisiana education which I call Predatory Charters. In my opinion the only purpose of predatory charters is to use our tax dollars to enrich entrepreneurs who have figured out how to use the current education reform movement to their advantage. Here is Dr. Beebe's letter:

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)'s decision on October 16, 2013 to approve charter school applications for Lafayette Parish – against the wishes of Lafayette’s elected education leaders – sets a dangerous precedent that should alarm all Louisiana citizens.

BESE approved 5 charter school applications in Lafayette Parish from two groups, Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies. Both Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies are for-profit corporations headquartered outside of Louisiana. While these companies claimed their charter schools would provide choice for parents and ease student crowding in the classroom, many citizens of Lafayette Parish expressed legitimate concerns.

Citizens were concerned the for-profit companies would retain ownership of the facilities built with taxpayers’ dollars should the charter schools fail to deliver on their promised student achievement. Many felt it was better to invest in new public school facilities that would remain under public ownership, rather than enrich out-of-state corporations. Parents were concerned about the accessibility of the proposed charter schools for students from poor neighborhoods; the proposed charter schools would be built in affluent neighborhoods that currently have high-performing public schools.

With these concerns in mind, after numerous public hearings on the issues and much public feedback, the elected board members of the Lafayette Parish School Board voted to reject the charter school applications from both companies. These companies then applied to BESE for school charters granted by the State of Louisiana. Disregarding the legitimate concerns and wishes of a local community, BESE granted the charters by a vote of 8 to 2 to a “B School District.

If BESE has the ability and desire to ignore the concerns of local parents and elected leaders for the economic benefit of for-profit corporations, we should all be concerned for our children’s education and future.


Lottie P. Beebe, Ed. D., BESE District 3

Breaux Bridge, LA


My Additional Comments: These predatory charters in Lafayette parish and others like them in other parts of the state, have learned how to skim the most productive students away from local school systems by utilizing demanding application processes and by dumping low performing students utilizing strict discipline policies.
Advertisements by these charter management groups which are ultimately paid for with our tax dollars attempt to attract high performing students and exclude low performers even though by law their admission practices are not supposed to exclude any category of students. Parents may be informed that the school requires a certain number of volunteer hours by the parent in order for the student to remain in good standing. Such schools also make it known that the the school will not tolerate disruptive or non-compliant students. This to some may sound like reasonable requirements but such requirements cannot be put into practice in regular public schools. The State DOE monitors the discipline policies of public school systems and in some cases appoints a special master who has authority to overrule suspensions by school principals. No such authority is exercised over charters. This means that they can dump their disruptive and low performing students into the regular public schools.
The long term result of such predatory practices by charters is that such schools could gain a major advantage in producing higher school performance scores and the right to add more profit making charters. (Our state law now allows high performing charters to add more schools without following the normal application process). The new state law passed by Jindal two years ago also no longer requires that such schools be compared to regular public schools according to student demographics. This means that their more advantaged student composition is no longer questioned by the state.
You know where this is going. This all part of the ALEC agenda to destroy public education.  After a few years, the Louisiana public schools could be seriously damaged and their ability to maintain public support eroded. Our most at risk students would stand to lose the most in this process.

One of my primary reasons for creating the Defenders of Public Education email list is to oppose such predatory practices that damage our public schools. Please participate in my Defenders email system.