BATON ROUGE — A 1st Circuit Court of Appeal judge has overturned a lower’s judge ruling in
Louisiana that would have blocked state aid to 32 charter schools.
Not long after state Superintendent of Education John White conceded he planned
to halt aid to all of the targeted schools following 19th Judicial District Court
Judge Wilson Fields' decision, the higher court stepped in to issue a stay on
the matter, removing the looming threat of an immediate interruption of state
aid to all of those institutions.
According to an article in The Advocate, all the legal machinations stem from a recent federal lawsuit
filed by the Louisiana Association of Educators challenging the practice of
state aid being funneled to certain charter schools. The plaintiffs charged
that funding the schools through a formula meant to support local schools is a gross
violation of the state constitution.
Meanwhile, critics of the lawsuit argued that if the judge’s ruling had been
allowed to go into effect as mandated, the nearly three-dozen charter schools
involved and more than 16,000 students could have faced major financial
problems as early as next week that could have proven devastating.
“State funding is critical for preservation for these schools,”
Sarah Vandergriff, Association of
Educators' legal policy director, told the Louisiana Record.
“This fight is over the allocation of state dollars, and the approximation is
that comes to roughly about $70 million annually.”
The Type 2 charter schools targeted in the suit have only been in
operation since 2008, and Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools Executive Director Caroline Roemer said that many of them would not have
the reserves needed to withstand an action that took away much of their funding
as blocking their state aid would have done.
The self-governed public schools operate independently of existing public
school districts and receive funding from the Minimum Foundation
By a narrow 3-2 vote, the courts previously ruled that money designated for the
city school systems by MFP cannot be used to fund Type 2 schools. Immediately
following that dramatic ruling, the states and the Louisiana Association of
Public Charter Schools sought to have the verdict placed on hold, insisting
that the ruling stood to cripple the entire system and drastically alter its
Circuit Court of Appeal ruling was a reversal of a 2015 lower court decision. Currently,
all MFP-appropriated money is constitutionally mandated. Some have proposed
the most practical solution available might lie in local lawmakers moving to
strategically enact a line item appropriation allowing for the funding of Type
2 charter schools with state general fund dollars.
“The appellate court opinion said the charter schools don’t qualify for MPE
funding and so they did not look intensely look at how funding works,” Vandergriff said. “We’ll being fighting every day for our students and the wonderful
work we do at our institutions. We’ll confident we will rise to the occasion
and find a way to persevere no matter what the decision ultimately proves to