By Philip White
Back in the day, we all remember the spoiled, whinny little rich kid in the neighborhood who owned all the balls. Whenever things didn’t go his way in a baseball, basketball or football game, the whinny little rich kid would pout, take his ball and go home. Lusher Charter School and Sherwood Forest Charter School filing suit against the Orleans Parish School Board is just like that spoiled, whinny, little rich kid. After years of getting everything they wanted from the Orleans Parish School Board, when Superintendent Henderson advised Lusher Charter School and Lake Forest Charter School that their funding would be reduced, Lusher Charter School and Lake Forest Charter School told Superintendent Henderson, “You can’t treat us like that. Don’t you know who we are. We’re special. We’re entitled to our privilege.”
In a committee consisting almost totally of charter advocates, the committee recommended some modification of the budget to provide additional funding for special needs students in schools that service the special needs students. So Lusher Charter School and Lake Forest Charter School responded by pouting, taking their ball and going home. This is the same Lusher that took advantage of the Fortier community after Hurricane Katrina and coerced the Orleans Parish School Board to give Lusher Middle the Fortier High School site on Freret Street for a Lusher High School that didn’t exist prior to Hurricane Katrina. This is the same Lake Forest the Orleans Parish School Board made a priority of building a new campus in New Orleans East after Hurricane Katrina.
To their credit, the other committee members who represented charter schools, recommended their schools take a little less funding in order that schools with greater needs receive additional funding. On the surface, that seems to be an example of altruism and looking out for the greater good of all students.
It seems the dirty little secret in the room didn’t receive much attention. The dirty little secret, hiding in plain sight, is the amount of money allocated to charters. If Lusher Charter School receives 17 million dollars in public funding each year through the Minimum Foundation Program and local funding, does that mean the charter operator receives 10% of that budget? If so, then the Lusher Charter operator receives 1.7 million dollars each year to operate. Now exactly where does that public money go? What companies and individuals receive those public funds? Whose names are on those checks? What services were received for that 1.7 million dollars of public money in past years?
These private charter organizations that proliferated in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina would disappear the second those public funds are no longer available.
Where is the accountability? Many have asked for years for an accounting of these publicly- funded, privately- operated institutions. Also, will somebody explain, in a city with high poverty and high unemployment rates, why is the Lusher Charter School principal one of the highest paid public school principals in the United States of America? Anyone who accepts that challenge, must explain it with a straight face.
Intertwined in the discussion about funding for charter schools is the infamous One App program and the Orleans Parish School Board firing of its entire workforce after Hurricane Katrina. It is outrageous for the Orleans Parish School Board to sanction One App.
One App is the uniquely New Orleans program that centralizes student enrollment for all students. One App has been the singular most devastating program that has sanctioned the enormous disparity in the allocation of resources. In its infinite wisdom, the Orleans Parish School Board exempted Lusher Charter and Lake Forest Charter from participating in the One App program.
Those schools who have recently participated in One App have also received the tremendous bonus of not participating in One App from the beginning. It’s disingenuous for schools like Warren Eastern Charter School and Karr Charter School to claim their schools are now One App schools. It’s the equivalent of running a 100- meter race against opponents and you have a seventy- meter head start. It will take Herculean efforts for schools that were forced to participate from the beginning in One App to catch up. In addition, only the naïve believe the One App is fair and equitable. That One App program is as phony as that sixty cents dollar bill.
For the sake of full disclosure, since the Lusher and Lake Forest Charter School Boards have filed the law suit, their Boards should be required to submit to a full audit from an independent agency to justify their concerns. As public institutions that pride themselves on developing the talents of students, wouldn’t it be a public relations bonanza for Lusher Charter and Lake Forest Charter to voluntarily accept more special needs students and the additional funds that follow those students? Why are they are afraid to accept more special needs and economically disadvantaged students?
Giving the appearance of altruism and setting a good example of sacrifice is a much better look for Lusher Charter School and Lake Forest Charter School than presenting themselves to the community at large as the spoiled, whinny little rich kids throwing temper tantrums when they can’t get their way.