NEW ORLEANS – A federal judge last week rejected a request to dismiss a lawsuit filed against Orleans Parish School Board and the school superintendent over the method that is used to determine the amount of funding allocated for local schools.
Lake Forest Elementary Charter School Corporation and Advocates for Arts-Based Education Corporation, which operates Lusher Charger School, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on March 17.
A new school funding plan allegedly favors schools with students with special needs, but Lusher and Lake Forest focus more on gifted students, so both of them might lose some of their funding.
One news source reported earlier this year that Lusher might lose $1.2 million in annual funding, with Lake Forest’s losses estimated at between $300,000 and $500,000. The same source stated there would be a number of other schools that might also lose funding under the new plan.
The school board and superintendent filed a motion in federal court to have the charter school lawsuit dismissed, arguing that the situation is covered by state laws, so a federal court is not the right jurisdiction.
"I believe they were incorrect, and the court found the federal court is the correct jurisdiction for this case," the lead plaintiff's attorney James A. Brown, of Liskow & Lewis, told the Louisiana Record.
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo said a federal issue does apply, that of the potential impairment of the schools contracts. The Contracts Clause in the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from passing laws that interfere with private contracts.
“Lake Forest and Lusher assert claims of impairment of contract in violation of Article 1, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution (the “Contracts Clause”), and also assert claims for violation of equal protection and due process of law under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in addition to claims under state law," Brown said.
Milazzo has not yet ruled if the school board and superintendent did or did not impair the schools' contracts.
An amendment was made to the state's charter school law by the state legislature to allow for the new funding formula in New Orleans.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the legislature each year approve the Minimum Foundation Program, which is a formula the schools use for their contracts. The schools and superintendent have stated, however, that the two school's contracts indicate they should also be funded by the guidelines of the state's charter school law.