Fewer charter schools to open?

Fewer charter schools to open?
(Source: Erica Bivens/KPLC)
(Source: Erica Bivens/KPLC)

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Legislation up for debate at the State Capitol could limit the number of future charter schools.

Supporters of House Bill 703 say it's not an anti-charter school bill, but rather an attempt to keep local control.

While the Jindal administration opposes the bill and testified against it in committee, it passed the State House by a 55-39 vote.

Current law requires potential charter schools to fill out an application with the local school system.

"Once that application is completed it comes to the local school board. The local school board can either approve or deny that application," explained Jeff Davis Superintendent Brian LeJeune.

But even if the application is denied by a school system, LeJeune says the charter can file an appeal with BESE, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, "And become a type 2 charter school and BESE has been consistent in approving just about everybody that applies."

LeJeune says BESE's ability to override the wishes of the school system is unfair.

But House Bill 703 seeks to take away the appeals process for A, B, and C schools.

While there's only a handful of charter schools in Southwest Louisiana, if the bill is approved, it could mean we won't be seeing any new charters in our area unless a school system's grades, fall.

"If a school district should at some point or another find themselves in a D or F condition, then the law applies as it was originally written," added Terry Holden, with the Louisiana Association of Educators.

Supporters say that's beneficial to schools doing well, which in SWLA, LeJeune says, "Every district is a B or a C."

But 703 supporters have another concern.

"They do take money away from our local public schools and that to me is a damage in itself," said Holden.

LeJeune added, "Not only is it MFP dollars that follow those students, but it's the local dollars generated here in the parish that also follow. Why should those dollars be able to go to charter schools when they were not generated for those systems? It becomes a dollar and cents issue in addition to what's right and wrong."

BESE officials declined to comment on the bill.

Opponents, meanwhile, continue to say parents should have choices on where to send their children.

The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate Education Committee before it can come before the full Senate.

To view the 2013-2014 Louisiana Type 2, 4 and 5 Charter Schools Annual Report: http://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/school-choice/2013-2014-charter-annual-report.pdf?sfvrsn=8

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