Opposition is growing more vocal as the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education prepares to make its final decision on the applications from two companies seeking Type 2 Charter status in Lafayette Parish.
In a press release issued Monday, the League of Women Voters of Lafayette, addressing BESE, states the two Type 2 Charter applications submitted by Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academy is in need of “scrutiny.”
The Type 2 Charter applications come after the Lafayette Parish School Board recently denied both companies’ applications for Type 1 status, which would have put them under the jurisdiction of the LPSB. In seeking Type 2 status, the charter companies would be under the jurisdiction of BESE.
Below are the reasons included in Monday’s release for the League’s opposition to the opening of the two Type 2 charters:
• The Lafayette Parish School Board did not discuss, approve [or] inform the public of the Lafayette Parish School System’s Memorandum of Understanding that rendered the responsibility of review of 2013 charter school applications to the Department of Education and a third party reviewer. This compromises charter school law Bulletin 126 that stipulates that the local authorizer must fully review applications. In addition it precluded input by Lafayette’s public and prevented the public’s participation in the review process.
• Public guidelines for the review and approval of 2013 charter school applications to Lafayette Parish are presented in the online guide entitled “2013 Request for Applications.” The process outlined in the RFA indicates an approval deadline for type 1 and type 2 charter applicants as August 14, 2013. There has been no public appeal or public amendment by any party involved in the Lafayette applications that alters or extends that deadline. Instead the Louisiana Department of Education appears to have arbitrarily extended the process for approval of charter schools that would open in Lafayette Parish in August of 2014.
• The rules that govern public discourse are fundamental to the integrity of the process of governing and public’s trust in any governing body to render fair decisions. Altering the rules that govern the Lafayette applications during the process itself is not transparent, well-defined and representative of a public process. Anything less on the part of the Department of Education and BESE hinders the ability of Lafayette Parish to fully understand, consider and participate in the public education of its children.
The League is not alone in its opposition to the two companies seeking Type 2 status in Lafayette Parish. Swamp BESE, a group led by Lafayette Parish parent Ann Burruss, has also spearheaded a campaign urging BESE to deny the applications. According to a report from Marsha Sills of The Advocate, the major point of contention for Swamp BESE is the failure of National Heritage Academies to disclose some vital information in the application it submitted to the DOE.
An audit of the Buffalo United Charter School’s relationship with National Heritage Academies from July 2010 to June 2012 was critical of the School Board’s fiscal oversight of NHA and for NHA’s failure to disclose detailed information on some costs. An audit of another NHA-managed school — Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School — questioned why its board of trustees paid $800,000 above fair market value on its NHA lease for its school building. The audit also said the school’s board could not verify how $10 million it received in public funding benefited students.
DOE’s application requirements for charter operators necessitates the disclosure of any litigation or material audit findings involving its schools.
BESE is slated to make its final decision on the Type 2 applications on Wednesday.