The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)’s decision on October 16, 2013 to approve charter school applications for Lafayette Parish – against the wishes of Lafayette’s elected education leaders – sets a dangerous precedent that should alarm all Louisiana citizens.
BESE approved 5 charter school applications in Lafayette Parish from two groups, Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies. Both Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies are for-profit corporations headquartered outside of Louisiana. While these companies claimed their charter schools would provide choice for parents and ease student crowding in the classroom, many citizens of Lafayette Parish expressed legitimate concerns.
Citizens were concerned the for-profit companies would retain ownership of the facilities built with taxpayers’ dollars should the charter schools fail to deliver on their promised student achievement. Many felt it was better to invest in new public school facilities that would remain under public ownership, rather than enrich out-of-state corporations. Parents were concerned about the accessibility of the proposed charter schools for students from poor neighborhoods; the proposed charter schools would be built in affluent neighborhoods that currently have high-performing public schools.
With these concerns in mind, after numerous public hearings on the issues and much public feedback, the elected board members of the Lafayette Parish School Board voted to reject the charter school applications from both companies. These companies then applied to BESE for school charters granted by the State of Louisiana. Disregarding the legitimate concerns and wishes of a local community, BESE granted the charters by a vote of 8 to 2 to a “B” School District.
If BESE has the ability and desire to ignore the concerns of local parents and elected leaders for the economic benefit of for-profit corporations, we should all be concerned for our children’s education and future.
Lottie P. Beebe, Ed. D., BESE District 3,
Breaux Bridge, La.