2nd charter school application gets thumbs down

Second Lake Charles Charter School's application 'unfavorably recommended'

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - On Thursday, December 1, 2011, Lake Charles Charter Academy Foundation received word that a national review team submitted an "unfavorable recommendation" to the State Department of Education with regards to getting a second charter school.

Judge Gene Thibodeaux is the president of the nonprofit Lake Charles Charter Academy Foundation.  He says, "The Louisiana Department of Education contracts with National Association of Charter School Authorizers. NACSA reviews applications before anything is given to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. So in essence, the review team makes a recommendation to the State Dept of Education. The education department defers the initial analysis of the application to the national interview/review team".

Thibodeaux says there was an observation made in the review about the high number of at-risk students. He firmly believes that all children can be taught given the right environment and does not agree at all with the review's findings in that area.

Also pointed out in the review: Apportionment of dollars to instructional methods and lack of performance indicators from the first school.

To the apportionment point, Thibodeaux says "It is state law, not charter school law that requires 70% of a school's budget should go to instruction. And this interview team is indicating that we have not met that 70% threshold". A claim he says, he never had the opportunity to rebut. In fact, Thibodeaux says during both the video conference interview and the in-person interview, he was never asked to flush out his "instructional method" funding.

And as far as the lack of performance indicators, Thibodeaux says, "Our first school hasn't been open long enough for their to be a true barometer of anything being it only opened this year in 2011 and this will be our first full school year. They need to give it a year or two".

Thibodeaux says the school will operate at a surplus of five million dollars at the end of year five due to not having to pay a high cost of administrators like the average school board.  He says his current charter school operates nicely within the $8,800 dollars per student the state gives each student.

Currently there are 639 students enrolled at Lake Charles Charter Academy on Power Center Parkway in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The school will expand to grade 7 in 2012 and grade 8 in 2013. The total at the end of 2013 should be capacity which is 860 students.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will have a final vote this week to determine whether or not the second application will move forward.  If the vote is denied, Judge Thibodeaux says the Lake Charles Charter Academy Foundation is prepared to exercise other options.