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