ICYMI: A Time of Controversy

In Case You Missed It (ICYMI) … Your mini news clippings

School Funding Formula for the City

By a 10-1 vote (with one abstention), the Act 467 Committee, comprised of local Orleans Parish educators and community members, voted in favor a new funding formula for all RSD and OPSB public schools. These local weights will be submitted to BESE for consideration at their March 3rd and 4th meetings.

As discussed in Educate Now!’s February 17 email, this Orleans-specific formula will allocate money to every RSD and OPSB student based upon certain local weights, and this money follows the student to the school where that student enrolls. These local weights provide extra money for students with special needs, overage students, English language learners, high school students and gifted and talented (G & T) students. The heaviest weight is for students with special needs, so schools that enroll low numbers of special needs students are likely to see less money under this new formula.

To protect schools from a significant drop in funding, the Committee proposed that in addition to the local weights, the formula will include a “phase in” clause, such that no school’s average MFP per pupil will fall below 98% of its 10/1/15 MFP average per pupil. There are an estimated 14 schools that would need phase in support of varying amounts, but no school will see a reduction greater than $185/student.

The lone vote against the plan came from Kathy Riedlinger, principal of Lusher. Lusher, Franklin, Audubon, and a couple of other schools with low numbers of students with disabilities and a large gifted and talented population oppose the reduction in funding for G & T students. They are urging their parents to ask BESE delay the vote. Additionally, Lusher’s board voted to sue to stop the formula, and other schools might also be considering similar action.

In response, a group representing 90% of the public schools in the city signed a letter of support for the formula and held a press conference at Wilson School.

Return of Schools

Of the 33 RSD schools eligible to return to OPSB control, 28 decided to remain in the RSD, 3 conditionally agreed to return, and 2 still have to vote on the issue. The board of KIPP New Orleans voted to return KIPP Renaissance High School, and New Beginnings voted to return Pierre Capdau and Lake Area New Tech. Both boards made return contingent on limiting the increase in insurance costs.

Testing Concerns (continued)

After the issues raised by Landry Walker and SciTech Academy, the RSD and its charter school leaderspledged to tighten testing security measures and pay for independent test monitoring. They hope these changes will reassure the public that Landry Walker and SciTech were isolated incidents. The issue of testing concerns has generated a lot of opinions, including an op-ed from Peter Cunningham, a letter to the editor from Tania Nyman, and an editorial from the Times-Picayune.

Voucher Performance

New research found Louisiana’s voucher program is having a negative impact on students. Studies from Tulane’s Education Research Alliance for New Orleans found in one year, voucher student performance fell 24 percentile points in math and 8 percentile points in reading below their public school counterparts. In the second year, the downward trend continued in math but rebounded some in reading. Researchers called the results “unprecedented” among studies of voucher programs. State Supt. John White defended the voucher program saying students are showing steady improvement, results will continue to improve and parents are satisfied with the program. Editor’s note: These results were predictable, as the voucher program began with no accountability. Some very low performing schools were allowed to accept large numbers of voucher students. As the poorly performing schools leave the voucher program, the results should improve.

Will the legislature cut the MFP to balance the budget?

Louisiana’s Republican-led House Appropriations Committee proposed cutting $44 million from primary and secondary education. The next day, the committee removed the cuts to public schools and insteadproposed cutting $44 million from the Department of Education’s budget, which includes funding for pre-K, state testing, and vouchers. This re-vamped version cleared the House 98-0. These cuts would decimate the Department of Education and are likely to be partially reversed by the Senate.

In Other News

State Rep. Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette) was chosen to lead Louisiana’s powerful House Education Committee, triggering criticism from Louisiana’s teachers’ unions. Landry is seen as a solid vote for sweeping changes in public schools, which usually puts her at odds with the unions.

According to the EnrollNOLA Annual Report, 75% of families who participated in New Orleans’ centralized OneApp enrollment system were matched to one of their top three choices. In addition: 92% of eligible students chose to stay in their current school; 97% of students who demonstrated a strong preference for a neighborhood school were matched to an in-zone school; and 97% of students who applied to attend a school with their sibling(s) were placed at school with their sibling(s).

Matt Barnum of The Seventy Four turns a critical eye on Stanford’s Linda Darling-Hammond and herrecent report that was critical of New Orleans reforms.

Two Sci Academy alumni reflect on their transition from high school to college. One graduated from Sci Academy and enrolled at the University of Louisiana at Monroe before transferring to Delgado, and the other is enrolled at Swarthmore College outside of Philadelphia.