It appears that officials at Lusher Charter School are doubling down on their promise to fight a proposed change in the way public schools are funded in New Orleans.

Up to now, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and Recovery School District (RSD) have used different formulas to fund their respective schools. The new proposal would establish a unified funding formula for the city’s public schools modeled on the one now used by the RSD, which allocates funds based on the number of special needs, ELL, at-risk, and overage students at each school.

Lusher and other OPSB selective admissions charters would likely see an overall reduction in their annual funding since they serve a disproportionally small percentage of the city’s highest-need students. However, the proposed plan would ease the transition for these schools by phasing in the adjustment over time and capping annual funding decreases at two percent. As a result, the plan is backed by a majority of the city’s charter schools, as well as by RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard and OPSB Superintendent Henderson Lewis.

Background on the funding change:

Check Your Privilege

Nevertheless, Lusher officials seem hellbent on fighting the funding plan, which will be considered by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) at its monthly meeting next week. Lusher officials have been urging parents to attend next week’s BESE meeting to voice their opposition to the plan. A large crowd of Lusher community members are also expected at tonight’s RSD Committee of the Whole meeting, which is being held at Sci Academy at 6:00pm.

The Uptown Messenger also reported this weekend that Lusher’s board of directors is threatening to file a lawsuit to block the new funding plan. Board members will decide whether to proceed with litigation at a special meeting this coming Saturday.

Financial Reports Reveal Lusher’s Big Lie

Why are Lusher officials so opposed to the funding changes? Well, they claim that the proposed funding formula will have a disastrous impact on their school’s finances. In a recent letter to parents, Kathy Riedlinger & Co. stated that “historically successful schools” would see their budgets “gutted” under the new formula and claimed Lusher “will lose more than $1,277,000 annually.”

However, a review of Lusher’s annual financial reports filed with Louisiana’s Legislative Auditor reveal that the school has ended up with budget surpluses totaling more than $1.4 million in 2014 and 2015 – i.e., Lusher made significantly more money than it spent over the past two years.

According to the school’s audited financial reports, Lusher ended F.Y. 2014 with a net surplus of $1,620,539.

Lusher had $1,620,000 surplus at the end of F.Y. 2014.
Lusher had $1,620,000 surplus at the end of F.Y. 2014.

Furthermore, this past year, Lusher ended up with a net surplus of $1,429,471.

Lusher's surplus in F.Y. 2015 was $1,429,000.
Lusher’s surplus in F.Y. 2015 was $1,429,000.

So, even if the claims made by Lusher officials were true and the school faced a $1.2 million funding cut next year (it doesn’t, the 2% cap means the maximum reduction would actually be about $219,000), it would have zero impact on the school, as Lusher’s revenues have exceeded expenses by a significant margin.

In short, Lusher’s opposition to the new funding plan has nothing to do with defending the school against an existential financial threat. It’s about defending the school’s privileged position within the public school system at all cost.

Lusher Audited Financial Report for F.Y. 2014

Lusher Audited Financial Report for F.Y. 2015

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School Funding: An RSD Principal’s View – PE + CO

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Mr. Ankrum

@petercook PC what are they spending on students w/ a surplus like that?



Let’s put it another way. All the money that goes to New Orleans students is one big pile of money. Lusher students (and all OPSB students) have been getting more than their fair share of that pile, and now there is a movement to make it more fair so that all kids in New Orleans, regardless of where they go to school, get the same amount of funding to educate them.

Last year, Lusher built its budget on $8578 per student.

Last year, RSD schools built their budget on $7300 per student.

RSD schools receive additional funding for each student if they have special needs and services must be provided. For example, if a student needs speech services, the school receives an additional $1400. If a student is autistic and needs a one-on-one paraprofessional, the school receives an additional $23,000. This formula was agreed upon and put into place by the RSD leadership to respond to student needs at the school level. OPSB does not divvy up the special education money it receives from the federal government this way. The money does not follow the student.

In the new formula, the base for all children would be the same throughout the city, and the special education money would follow the student. This means that regular education students, those without disabilities, would all get the same amount of funding. However, Lusher and OPSB schools have far fewer special education students, which means they would get less special education money overall. Right now, Lusher has fewer than 5% of its students who need special services. My school has 19% needing services. A full third of my staff is dedicated to those students, and those services (which are federally mandated) cost money.

This isn’t about taking money from one set of schools (the “high performers” like Lusher) and giving it to those of us in the “historically failing and mismanaged schools.” This is about Lusher and OPSB schools resisting a funding change that funds each New Orleans child’s education at the same amount.

Lusher is arguing that Lusher students, by virtue of being selected to attend Lusher, deserve MORE of their fair share than other New Orleans students. Of course, Lusher will say that they need these funds to deliver the high-quality education, art, and sports programs. But I think we all agree that EVERY child in New Orleans deserves a high quality experience at school. Should Lusher students get smaller class sizes? Higher paid teachers? Higher-quality art facilities? More field trips? Because that’s what $1200 more per child buys them. It’s one thing to create an enclave of privilege because it selects for academic achievement. It’s a whole other thing to then say that these students deserve more than other students.

And let’s look at the results of giving the dozen OPSB schools more money per child than the 75 RSD schools. Lusher has 18 million dollars in an endowment. That means that they have extra money each year that they put away, and that extra money gives them $340,000 each year as income. I spend that same amount ($400,000) to provide transportation to the children in my school each day, a practice that Lusher chooses not to engage in. And unless Lusher has 260 staff members, they are spending WAY more than the typical RSD school on staff salaries.

If we as a city agree that Lusher students deserve more because they are academically higher achieving, then we should at least be transparent about it. Instead of having an unequal funding structure, we should create a “special kids deserve more” fund and allocate it from the big pile of money that all New Orleans students share. But until we as a city agree that certain kids deserve more because they belong to a certain school, then we should fund all kids equally.

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