ICYMI: Changes for New Orleans Charters

Sen. Claitor’s SB 267 is awaiting the governor’s signature.

The bill will result in a number of changes for charters across the state, but it will have a significant impact on how New Orleans charters are funded.

Changing How Charters Are Funded

The MFP uses a weighted student formula, recognizing some students are more expensive to educate than others. The formula provides extra money for poor students, VoTech education, and gifted and talented students. But, it provides the most money for special education students.

Currently, Type 1, 2, 3 and 4 charter schools are funded using the AVERAGE per pupil amount in the MFP. Hence, they get the same amount of money for a student whether that student is a regular education student or a special education student.

SB 267 changes charter funding in two ways:

1.  It requires Type 1, 2, 3 and 4 charters to be funded based on the money inside the formula for the individual students they educate – not the average. 

    Money will still follow the student, but the amount of money will better reflect the cost budgeted in the MFP for that student. For a charter school that has a lower percentage of special needs students than the district, this change will lower the amount of money the school receives. If a charter exceeds the average, it will get more money.

Educate Now! agrees with this funding change. If a school is not educating special needs students, then they should not get the extra money the state allocates for these students. In New Orleans, we have some charters that enroll less than 5% special education students and others that have more than 20%. The amount of money schools receive should reflect these differences.

2.  It requires the Department of Education to facilitate a process to move all charter schools in Orleans Parish to the same funding formula.

    The RSD already funds its charters (Type 5 and 3B) based on the individual students they educate instead of the district average, but the RSD uses different funding categories than the MFP formula, putting much more emphasis on the cost of special needs students and not giving schools extra funding for poor students or gifted and talented students. SB 167 requires the state to work with OPSB, RSD and the Charter School Association to create one formula that would apply to all charter schools in New Orleans (Type 1, 2, 3, 3B, 4 and 5).

Educate Now! believes it makes sense that the same amount of money should follow a student irrespective of what type of charter school the student attends. Moreover, if/when RSD schools return to OPSB, all the schools under OPSB should be funded using the same formula. Nevertheless, creating one formula will not be easy! 

OPSB Policy A126

This month, OPSB received Policy A126 for the first reading. View the staff presentation on the proposal.

Opponents of Representative Bouie’s bill to return schools argued that OPSB was not ready for the return of schools. One area of criticism was the failure of OPSB to adopt a strong charter school policy that outlines the rules that would apply to all OPSB charters.

Superintendent Henderson Lewis is addressing this need through Policy A126. A126 outlines the expectations for OPSB charters around autonomy, board composition, finances, admissions, enrollment, discipline, and transportation. Two areas will be most contentious:

  • OneApp: Policy A126 requires all OPSB charters to participate in the common enrollment upon their charter renewal. While OPSB passed a resolution requiring this in 2012, A126 would put the requirement in policy. Audubon, Einstein (some grades), Franklin HS, Hynes, Lake Forest, Lusher, Moton and Warren Easton are not in OneApp.
  • Transportation: Currently, every RSD and OPSB school provides students with free transportation except: Audubon, Einstein, Hynes, Lake Forest and Lusher.
Policy A126 will come to OPSB for a vote in August. How the board addresses these issues and if it can find the five votes to pass some version of A126 will be an indicator of whether the board will support Superintendent Lewis in getting the district ready for the return of schools.

Other News

Free Resources for Schools and Students

Khan Academy is teaming up with College Board to offer a free SAT prep program.

New York is one of the first states to develop a comprehensive, Common Core-aligned curriculum with the materials teachers need to meet the new standards. EngageNY is a free resource and is being accessed by teachers across the country.

Other State News

The Common Core compromise legislation has passed. Now the issue moves to BESE and could frame a number of BESE elections.

The Legislature included an extra $36 million in the budget for local school districts this coming year. The money was not part of the MFP funding formula, which will remain the same as last year, but legislators received assurances that the increase will continue into future years.

Beginning June 1, Louisiana will implement new student ID measures requiring each Local Education Authority (LEA) to assign a unique student identification number in lieu of a student’s social security number.

New Orleans Headlines

OPSB Superintendent Henderson Lewis has the broad outlines of a reorganization plan for the district’s central office. His plan is short on details, for now, but Lewis say he expects to cut 20-25 of the current 100 central office positions.

Andre Perry says cities don’t have to rely on outsiders to improve education. He points to Rene Lewis-Carter, principal of Martin Behrman Charter School, as just one example of the talent and innovation that was born in New Orleans.

In the Washington Monthly’s How New Orleans Made Charter Schools Work, David Osborne says New Orleans has produced what some experts believe to be the most rapid improvement in American history.