Education Reform Now Advocacy-Louisiana Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Lawsuit Threatening High-Quality Public Charter Schools

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Education Reform Now Advocacy-Louisiana Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Lawsuit Threatening High-Quality Public Charter Schools

Louisiana Supreme Court will now decide whether or not charter schools serving 16,000 Louisiana students will remain open

NEW ORLEANS, LA – On Tuesday, June 6, 2017, Education Reform Now-Advocacy, Louisiana (ERN-A LA), a 501(c)4 organization affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform-Louisiana (DFER-LA), filed a motion for an amicus brief in the case of Iberville Parish School Board, et al v. Louisiana State Elementary and Secondary Education Board, et al. The case now sits before the Louisiana Supreme Court which will determine whether or not charter schools serving nearly 16,000 Louisiana students will continue receiving critical funds and will remain open. A hearing date has yet to be announced. 

The brief states that upholding the lower court’s ruling that Type 2 charter schools are not entitled to funds from the Minimum Foundation Program and therefore not recognized as public schools, “would challenge the very existence of both charter schools and certain other public schools in Louisiana – and at a significant cost. By definition, Type 2 charter schools are public schools. They are providing innovative and unique learning environments, especially for Louisiana’s at-risk children. Independent research has shown that, overall, students in Louisiana’s charters receive a higher-quality education than students in traditional district schools. Furthermore, Type 2 charter schools provide a public educational option to students in more than thirty parishes who otherwise would only be able to attend district schools that are, from a legal standpoint, racially segregated, and provide quality opportunities to those students who would otherwise be attending failing district schools.

“A ruling to end MFP funding to Type 2 charter schools would condemn these schools to closure, and would result in sending thousands of children to potentially segregated and academically inferior district schools that they had previously chosen to leave. Such an effect would be neither humane nor just, and it would run counter to the rule that that every student ‘be afforded an equal opportunity to develop to his full potential,’ as intended by the Louisiana Constitution.

“Finally, were it to stand, the Lower Court’s Ruling would set a precedent for the termination of MFP payments to other non-district public schools, such as the New Orleans Center for Creative Art, the Louisiana School for Math Science and the Arts, schools under the Office of Juvenile Justice schools, and the University Lab Schools. These schools play a vital role in developing specific talent for the future of Louisiana, and in the case of the OJJ schools, in helping children recover from their prior criminal missteps.” Read the full brief here.

Democrats for Education Reform-Louisiana’s State Director Eva Kemp made this statement following the motion’s filing, “DFER-Louisiana is proud to support the 16,000 Louisiana students in public charter schools with this amicus brief. Our organization, along with several education leaders and advocates, have said this before and will say it again:  This lawsuit hinders high-quality public school options in our state; it’s time this argument have its day in our highest court. Our argument, as well as those presented by our partners at BAEO, Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and PublicSchoolOptions.org exhibit numerous reasons as to why charter schools are not only public schools, but also have improved educational opportunities in our state, especially for at-risk students and those with disabilities.

“Further, it is our opinion that if the lower court’s ruling is upheld, other special schools serving specific student populations in Louisiana could be negatively impacted,” said Kemp. “DFER-Louisiana looks forward to the forthcoming oral arguments and the Court’s ruling; we are optimistic that students in Louisiana will continue making significant strides in a high-quality public school that fits their specific needs.” 

In May 2015, Baton Rouge Judge Wilson Fields found “the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana Department of Education didn’t violate the state’s constitution by using Minimum Foundation Program funds for the charter schools…In his decision, Fields said Type 2 charter schools approved by BESE are clearly public schools and that BESE and the state Education Department were within their rights to support them with the use of public funds.” 

The Louisiana Association of Educators and the Iberville Parish School Board filed an appeal with the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal, and a panel voted 3-2 to overturn Judge Fields’ ruling in January 2017. The Department of Education, BESE and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools filed a Writ Application to the Supreme Court in February, and the Supreme Court has decided to take up the matter; a date to hear oral arguments has yet to be announced.

Education Reform Now Advocacy (ERNA) is a 501c(4) organization that partners with DFER-Louisiana. As a political reform organization that cultivates and supports leaders in our party who champion America’s public schoolchildren, ERNA and DFER-LA PAC have worked to increase both the quality and quantity of Democrats in elected offices across the state. ERNA and DFER-LA have provided support to reform-minded leaders who are dedicated to improving the lives of children in New Orleans and across the state.

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Contact: Leslie Leavoy, leslie@dfer.org