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Lawsuit threatens public funding for charter schools in Louisiana

Louisiana Record
Sharon Brooks Hodge
Mar. 27, 2016

The fight for control of public education money in Louisiana will have another round in court now that the state teachers union and local school board members have challenged a district court ruling.

Members of the Iberville Parish School Board and the Louisiana Association of Educators have appealed a May 2015 decision from the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge. The court upheld a 1995 law authorizing state officials to fund charter schools.

Although the Iberville Parish case centers on $3 million, the outcome of the lawsuit could impact as much as $60 million distributed to 25 schools with 13,000 students across the state.

“Money will always be the biggest area of dissension in education as long as school boards maintain the flawed position that the money belongs to one set of systems and not to the people,” Jeanne Allen, CEO of the Center for Education Reform, told the Louisiana Record. “They have misinterpreted their role. They, school boards, are the stewards of money, not the controllers.”

In 2014, the Iberville school board alleged that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education had wrongfully given district money to a charter school. Instead of the $16 million the district ordinarily would receive to use during the school year, in 2014 the state board appropriated $3 million to Iberville Charter Academy.

The district court determined that charter schools are public schools and the current funding plan established by the state can continue. Under that plan, every state-approved Type 2 charter school receives money from taxpayers. The amount is based on the number of students attending the school. As more students leave traditional public schools, funds to local school boards dwindle.

If the elected school board and teachers union are successful in their appeal, public funding

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Opinion: Building Up Barriers

Hillary Clinton’s position on school choice hurts low-income students

March 16, 2016
Rachel Campos-Duffy
U.S. News & World Report

Last month, presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton unveiled a new agenda she promised would tear down barriers to opportunity for low-income and minority communities. While she was able to garner a few headlines, it doesn’t change the fact that she opposes the surest way to give children the best shot at a better life: expanding school choice and access to charter schools.

I say that as a Latina mother of seven who has taken advantage of educational options for my own children, and who has seen school choice policies improve thousands of lives in my home state of Wisconsin. It has clearly worked for Hispanic families in Florida, Nevada, Arizona and elsewhere.

Charter schools in particular have proven a lifeline for millions of children stuck in chronically failing schools. That’s especially true in some urban areas where fewer than one-in-three students are proficient in reading and writing. For these children, charter schools are their only chance to escape a life of hopelessness and poverty.

Clinton hasn’t always been so opposed. In fact, as first lady, she was a strong supporter of the charter school movement. During a 1998 White House meeting, she advocated that “charter schools are a way of bringing teachers and parents and communities together.”

But as a presidential candidate, Clinton has flipped to a steadfast opponent of school choice, making no exception in the instance of failing traditional public schools. As she put it last year, “I want parents to be able to exercise choice within the public school system – not outside of it.”

As a mother myself, I cannot imagine a more heartless response to the millions of children whose lives depend on access to charter

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Getting Education Bills to the Finish Line

CER interns had the chance to tune in to a Brookings Institution webinar entitled “Getting Education Bills to the Finish Line”, and listened to former Capitol Hill staffers tackle the issue of reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA).

During the webinar, the failure to reauthorize ESEA was attributed to the introduction of the No Child Left Behind waivers, while failure of HEA was attributed to an abundance of policy proposals and executive orders, like giving letter grades to college institutions.

The overall consensus of the panel was that these bills needed to be updated to currently reflect education of today and the future. Some pointed to the separation of the branches of government and the non-alignment of the political parties as the reason these laws haven’t been updated. Panelists recalled their time in the Senate when legislators only wanted to be involved with the Executive Branch if it was an election year. The fact is there is not a bill that combines both the views of the Democrats and the Republicans, so anything passing is highly unlikely.

It was clear that education has become some sort of a “political football” that will be one a large factor in the upcoming presidential campaigns. Although the Obama Administration tried to pass these education bills, they failed because “shooting at POTUS is more popular than working with him”.

The panelists then took a vote on which bills they thought could hypothetically pass, and the results were mixed: reauthorization of HEA was unlikely, ESEA was 75% maybe/yes, and a proposed standardized higher education bill was a definite no.

I believe that both the House and the Senate need to put aside political agendas and focus on what’s important: THE CHILDREN. They need to figure out exactly

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