Wednesday, October 1, 2014

LAE Files Lawsuit Against Predatory Charters

LAE Leaders File Lawsuit Challenging The Improper Use Of MFP Funds


Illegal Use of Minimum Foundation Program Dollars to Fund Certain Charter Schools

Siphons Much-Needed Dollars Away From Local School Boards

BATON ROUGE, LA September 29, 2014 – Leaders from LAE affiliates across the state gathered in Baton Rouge Monday to officially challenge the constitutionality of using Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) dollars to fund certain charter schools.

The illegal use of MFP funds to pay for BESE-approved charter schools has had a devastating impact on city and parish school boards,” said LAE President Debbie Meaux. “We must put an end to these unconstitutional practices so that local school boards receive the MFP funds that they need to education all students in Louisiana.”

Louisiana public schools are funded through the MFP, and the Louisiana Constitution requires that MFP funds be equitably allocated to “parish and city school systems.” Despite this requirement, Louisiana’s Charter School Demonstration Programs Law and the latest MFP resolution approved by the Louisiana Legislature require the payment of MFP funds to Type 1B and Type 2 charter schools. (Type 1B charter schools operate pursuant to a charter with a local charter authorizer; Type 2 charter schools operate pursuant to a charter with BESE.) Parish and city school systems have no control over Type 1B and/or Type 2 charter schools because neither of these types of schools are considered “parish and city school systems” under Article VIII, §13(B) of the Louisiana Constitution.

LAE successfully challenged the funding of voucher schools through the MFP formula in 2012. LAE Attorney Brian Blackwell of Blackwell & Associates said the suit filed Monday is an outgrowth of the 2012 voucher case. “The 2012 lawsuit challenged the funding of private schools through the MFP. The suit filed today challenges the funding of state-created schools through the MFP. The funding of both types of schools has had devastating effects on city and parish school boards.” Blackwell said.

In 2012, the Louisiana Supreme Court held that ‘once the minimum baseline for public education is met, the MFP funds must still be allocated equitably to city and parish school systems.’ This ruling follows the Louisiana Constitution, which unambiguously requires that MFP funds be allocated to city and parish school systems,” said Blackwell. “Charter schools approved by BESE or local charter authorizers are not city and parish school systems. All money appropriated by the legislature to go into the MFP must be allocated equitably among the 69 city and parish school systems in the state.”

President Meaux went on to express that the members of her association have always considered school funding to be a top priority, which is why they chose to take legal action on the improper use of funds.

This lawsuit will ensure that MFP funds are spent on what the people of the state wanted them spent on – city and parish school systems – not on state-approved charter schools that siphon scarce resources away from those systems.”

State Superintendent John White responded to the LAE lawsuit with the now familiar ant-union rhetoric designed to give the impression that teachers and their unions are greedy and anti-parent's rights:
“The goal of this lawsuit is to stop taxpaying parents from choosing the school they think is best for their children,” White said.
“More money for unions and school boards, less for public schools not overseen by unions and school boards,” he said. “To the union, the desires of the taxpaying parents don’t matter.”

So in just two short sentences our so called state leader of public education manages to attack both public school teachers and locally elected school boards for wanting to curtail the efforts of out-of-state con men who line their pockets with our tax dollars while often providing an extremely sub-standard education to our public school students.

It has been well documented that the extremely profitable virtual charter schools where students can get credit for school coursework by sitting at a computer monitor at home have been some of the worst performing schools in the nation. Such schools don't even have to take attendance and still receive 90% of the MFP per student. Their profit comes from huge savings in not providing buildings, transportation, utilities, food, and upkeep. Yet such schools have almost zero accountability for insuring that students actually attend classes or learn the material taught in the various required courses. There is much evidence of this educational neglect in the high dropout/transfer rate of students attending virtual charters. State test scores for these schools are particlarly low. Such students often go back to their regular public schools at mid-year with almost no preparation to continue with their age group.

And yet the Superintendent blames the teachers and school boards for being greedy and opposed to "choice".

Let's set the record straight here: Advocates for charter schools and vouchers claim that parents should be able to take their tax money which is the MFP allocation per child and send their child to any school of their choosing, since it's their money, right?
No it is not their money! Most of the tax money for the MFP was not collected from the parents of children whom Jindal and White have designated as eligible to attend charter and voucher schools. All citizens, whether they have children attending public school or not, pay state taxes and local taxes which contribute to the MFP. The MFP allocation per student is the property of all taxpayers and voters. It is not appropriate for a parent who has paid only a small part of the MFP to take all of our contributions and squander them on any fly-by-night operation called a school. Decisions for the use of our education taxes should be made by our elected school board members. It is not proper or constitutional for unelected individuals to make those expenditures of our taxes!
Thank you to the Louisiana Association of Educators for this important legal challenge!