Louisiana Education Funding Lawsuit Threatens School Choice

Published March 22, 2016

Government school officials are joining teachers unions to challenge how Louisiana funds its charter schools, putting school choice options for almost 13,000 children at risk.

Elected officials on the Iberville Parish School Board and the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE), the state’s chapter of the National Educators Association teachers union, are appealing a May 2015 decision by the 19th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge. The court upheld a 1995 law allowing state officials to fund charter schools in government school districts receiving poor ratings from the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), bypassing local officials who may be hostile to these alternatives to traditional government schools.

In March 2016, government school officials and LAE appealed the District Court’s ruling, arguing BESE lacks the authority to directly fund charter schools established in poorly performing school districts, called “Type 2 schools.”

Protecting Monopoly

Kevin Kane, president of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, says the school district and LAE are working hard to maintain their education monopoly.

“I tend to view these lawsuits skeptically because, in reality, they are simply attempts to choke off competition,” Kane said. “That’s really what this is about. They don’t want to have to compete with charter schools or any other kind of school. They make these legal and policy arguments, but it all comes down to them not wanting any competition. They act as though they have some divine right to taxpayer support, but they don’t want anybody else to receive taxpayer support.”

Kids Before Money

Caroline Roemer, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the state’s charter school movement, says challenges to public charter schools’ funding distract from the schools’ primary purpose: helping children learn.

“Very rarely do we really get to spend a lot of time on academic progress, academic challenges, and things we can be doing to innovate in those areas of public education,” Roemer said. “It’s always about money.”

Roemer says her organization will continue to fight for Louisiana children’s right to a quality education.

“If the ruling goes all the way to the Supreme Court and doesn’t favor us, we’re willing to take this to the ballot,” Roemer said. “If we can’t win it in the courts, we’ll take it to the voters, to moms and dads, and we’ll win it there.”

Kate Patrick ([email protected]) writes from Clarksville, Ohio.