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Louisiana court says some charter schools aren't entitled to public funds

Jan. 11, 2017
The schools affected by the 3-2 court ruling have a total of about 13,000 students.

A Louisiana appeals court has struck down public funding for some of the state's charter schools.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that the court's majority concluded that the schools in question "are not public schools in the sense of the Louisiana Constitution."

That means those schools may not use the state's main source of public school money: funds allocated through the per-pupil formula called the Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP.

The 3-to-2 First Circuit decision came in a lawsuit the Louisiana Association of Educators brought against the Louisiana Department of Education and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).

State schools Superintendent John White says the state will appeal.

The decision applies only to those charters that BESE oversees directly and that were approved after July 1, 2008. About 13,000 students attend those schools.

The affected schools are schools that have had their charters approved by BESE without a district's consent, and in some cases, after the local school board has denied the charter application.

The Louisiana Constitution specifies that the Legislature must use the MFP to "equitably allocate the funds to parish and city school systems." The First Circuit majority focused on that language.

Charter schools "may not necessarily be considered 'private' schools," Judge Wayne Ray Chutz wrote. But "they clearly do not meet the constitutional definition of 'public schools' and, therefore, are not entitled to MFP funding."

In a dissenting opinion, Chief Judge Vanessa Whipple and Judge Guy Holdridge called the majority's interpretation "tortured."

"The constitution is clear that all public schools should be funded with MFP funds," Holdridge wrote. "There are no exceptions in the language of the constitution that provide that public schools that are not part of the parish or city school systems are somehow different from other public schools or that they should be funded differently."

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