Orleans' budget is -- surprise -- a little more complicated than that of your average school district as a result of the city's bifurcated public education system. All but six of the city's 83 public schools are independently run charters, and the Louisiana Recovery School District oversees about two-thirds.An additional complication is expected to be settled in court. During the spring, the board approved a new formula that more equitably shares funding between schools that serve special needs students and those that tend to exclude them via selective admissions processes.
The unanimous vote paves the way for Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. to implement a controversial formula that essentially strips money from gifted and talented students, and pads budgets catering to more pupils with special needs.The charter operators made good on their threat to sue for their right to operate a discriminatory semi-private school system with public funds. Essential to their argument was their assertion that the school board's new plan would take money away from their gifted and talented programs. As it turns out, though, that may not be exactly where the money was going.
More than 90 percent of the city’s public schools view the formula as a victory in the way of fair funding. A select few, however, have adamantly opposed the shift, as schools with high numbers of “gifted and talented” students bear the brunt of the change.
Two of those schools, Lusher Charter School and Lake Forest Charter Elementary School, have filed lawsuits in light of the plan, which would siphon nearly $1,400 per gifted elementary student per year from their budgets.
Before the vote, an attorney for those schools, James Brown, promised “expensive, divisive, federal court litigation” should the board give Lewis authority to disperse dollars as he sees fit. The “essential legal flaw” of the plan, he said, is that it gives the superintendent too much power over funding for a system comprised primarily of independent charters.
For months, Lusher Charter School, one of the top-ranked public schools in the state, has been waging a court battle to hold onto the extra funding it gets for pupils designated as gifted and talented, claiming that money is necessary to provide the enriched curriculum required for those students by state law.There's some indication that we may finally be coming to grips with the fact that the national education "reform" movement has always been a grift. But that's happening slowly because, well, there's still money to be made and political careers to fund before we finally learn enough to graduate from this level.
But a group of current and former Lusher employees and parents claims the Uptown New Orleans school has been pocketing the money for years without providing the types of services that gifted students are supposed to receive.
The critics also claim Lusher officials have misled middle school parents and state officials about so-called "individualized education plans" for gifted students that schools must submit to the state.
Those plans are not public records. However, two such plans obtained by a reporter were signed by teachers designated by Lusher to teach gifted children despite lacking a gifted certification.