Education funding ruling is groundbreaking, attorney says

By Angela Underwood | Mar 28, 2018

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans-based advocacy lawyer Jay M. O’Brien believes education, private or public, should be funded fairly to every student in the state.  

O’Brien, an attorney with McGlinchey Stafford, discussed the Louisiana Supreme Court recent decision on an appellate court's reversal ruling that found Senate Concurrent Resolution 55, which apportions the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) subsidy to New Type 2 charter schools, unconstitutional. 

“I believe it is a very good opinion,” O’Brien told the Louisiana Record. “Education is our future, so we want to educate all of our children as best we can, and I think that was the thrust of what the majority opinion was.”

The decision in the case, Iberville Parish School Board (IPSB) v. Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the State of Louisiana, was handed down March 13 by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson. Justice Jefferson Hughes dissented, and Justices James Genovese and John Weimer concurred.

Jay M. O’Brien of McGlinchey Stafford   McGlinchey Stafford

O’Brien said the opinion was written in a “in a very reasoned and logical” manner, especially in explaining dissenting opinions.

“Even when you get to Judge Hughes dissent, he says, ‘you’re right, we should fund all public school children; you just can’t do it through this mechanism of the Minimum Foundation Program,’” O’Brien said. “He’s really in agreement the way I look at it in the overall public policy issue.”

The impact of the decision is huge, O’Brien said.

“This is Louisiana, and we are and have been for a long time have been on the cutting edge of education reform,” O’Brien said, adding the state was a pioneer in standardized testing for advanced placement. “What we are trying to do is come up with innovative ways to educate all of our children.”

Funding Type 2 charter schools is groundbreaking, he said.

“Is all innovating going to be great and perfect every time … no, but they are going to come up with some wonderful ideas and I think that is the broad impact for education in the state of Louisiana,” he said.

Other states are watching, he said.

“Every state is different, but if we can find a way to fund public education, and innovate and make it better, I really think at the end of the day, that helps every single one of us, because studies say if you have a good high school education, you get a better job, you have a better living,” O’Brien said.

Though the ruling regarding the funding formula in and of itself is advanced, the impact of the decision also greatly impacts the labor and employment field.

“One of the big debates going on before the National Labor and Relations Board and unionization is whether or not charter schools are public schools or private schools,” O’Brien explained.

If they are public schools, you apply the Louisiana law, he said, and if they are private schools you apply federal law.

“By now having the Louisiana Supreme Court come out and definitively say, ‘hey, these charter schools, they are public schools,’ can change the entire framework of how union and labor relations go with these schools going forward,” O’Brien said.

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