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Lusher vs. The World Charter's Leaders Decide To Fight Equity At All Cost

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It’s official. This morning, Lusher’s board of directors unanimously voted to file a lawsuit to block the implementation of a new school funding formula if the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) proceeds with a vote on the matter next week.

Robert Morris of the Uptown Messenger live-blogged Lusher’s emergency board meeting – you can read his commentary from the meeting here.

Lusher CEO Kathy Riedlinger also sent another letter to parents on Friday afternoon asking them to sign a petition at change.org that calls on BESE to delay their vote on the funding change next week [see full text of the letter below]. Sadly, the letter makes clear that Riedlinger is continuing to mislead parents and community members about the impact of the new funding formula, although it’s interesting to note that her rationale for opposing the proposal has changed.

From Riedlinger's Friday letter to parents.

From Riedlinger’s Friday letter to parents.

In a January 25th email to parents, Riedlinger falsely claimed, “our school will lose more than $1,277,000 annually in addition to the $400,000 reduction we received this school year, and in total is 11.65% of Lusher’s operating budget.”

Now, Riedlinger acknowledges that new funding plan includes a provision that caps the annual reduction at 2%, but instead claims the “temporary 2% annual loss provision…is so complex that even our experienced school CFOs cannot verify the accuracy of the formula’s projected outcome.”

Here is the “hold harmless” provision from the funding plan that will be submitted to BESE members next week…

The "hold harmless" provision from the new funding plan.

The “hold harmless” provision from the new funding plan.

A note to Riedlinger and Lusher’s board members: If your Chief Financial Officer does not know how to subtract 2% from the amount your school received as of the October 1st, 2015 enrollment count, it’s time for you all to find a new CFO. This “complex” formula requires arithmetic, not calculus.

Riedlinger also claims that the new funding proposal “essentially defunds the Gifted and Talented programs,” which is a flat-out lie. The proposed formula still provides schools with an additional $375 per Gifted and Talented student enrolled, which is a reduction from the current OPSB formula, but is still adequate to provide needed services to those students.

The funding weights in the proposed funding formula for New Orleans schools.

The funding weights in the proposed funding formula for New Orleans schools.

A Shameful Lawsuit

A number of current Lusher parents have contacted me over the past two weeks to vent their anger over the misleading and inaccurate statements Riedlinger and board members have made about the impact of the proposed funding changes.

They should be angry. Not only have Lusher officials misled parents on this issue, but they’re now going to spend money – resources that could otherwise be spent on the education of Lusher’s students – on a lawsuit that the school is unlikely to win.

According to the Uptown Messenger, Lusher attorney James Brown plans to issue a demand letter claiming that the proposed funding formula for Orleans Parish violates the Louisiana Constitution.

From the live blog of the Uptown Messenger.

From the live blog of the Uptown Messenger.

But Brown is conflating two separate issues here: how the state funds districts vs. how districts divide that money among schools. The Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) formula that the State of Louisiana uses to fund districts is not changing – i.e., Orleans Parish is still going to get the same amount of money it would otherwise next year.

The funding plan that BESE will vote on next week only changes the way in which that money is divided among New Orleans schools. There is nothing in the Louisiana Constitution that prohibits districts from dividing those funds among schools as they see fit.

Brown also plans on arguing that the proposed funding formula would violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

From the live blog of the Uptown Messenger.

From the live blog of the Uptown Messenger.

Think about that for a minute. Lusher is invoking a constitutional amendment, passed after the Civil War to enshrine the rights of newly freed slaves in law, in their attempt to block a plan that would equitably distribute funds in a district that primarily serves low income African-American families.

That takes a lot of gall. Shame on Kathy Riedlinger and Lusher’s board members.


Bonus: F.Y. 2014 & 2015 Financials from Lusher, Franklin, Audubon and Lake Forest

There is a lot of misinformation about how much selective-admissions OPSB charters will lose under the proposed funding…

Posted by Peter C. Cook on Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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Charters

All About The Kids? Calcasieu Teacher Plays Politics At The Expense Of Students, Taxpayers

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For more than a year, Calcasieu Parish special education teacher Ganey Arsement has been on a self-appointed crusade against education reform in Louisiana. He has blasted charters, standardized testing, Common Core, teacher evaluation, and yours truly on his blog, as well as on social media. He has worked to coordinate his attacks with the state’s teachers unions, particularly the Louisiana Association of Educators, and has sought to ingratiate himself with anti-reform politicians like Gov. John Bel Edwards and former State Rep. Brett Geymann.

Arsement with Gov. John Bel Edwards and former State Rep. Brett Geymann.

Arsement has also become an increasingly visible presence in Baton Rouge, where he has spent untold hours attending meetings of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and lobbying in the hallways of the State Capitol. In recent months, Arsement has turned his guns on State Superintendent of Education John White – the bête noire of Louisiana’s reform opponents – whom he wants replaced. After failing to convince legislators that the law required them to reconfirm White (who has been on a month-to-month contract since the beginning of 2016), Arsement filed a petition in state court late last month that seeks to remove him from office.

Through it all, Arsement has portrayed himself as a selfless defender of public education who is fighting the nefarious schemes of greedy “corporate” reformers. However, a closer examination reveals that his political adventures have instead come at the expense of students and taxpayers.

Unethical and possibly worse

Official attendance records provided to me by Calcasieu Parish Schools Superintendent Karl Bruchhaus show that Arsement missed 16.5 days of work – more than three weeks of school – over the course of the 2016-17 school year.

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Arsement's absences and Calcasieu Parish School Board holidays.

According to Bruchhaus, all but one of these days (May 9, 2017) were recorded as sick leave. State law permits teachers to take two days of personal leave per year without loss of pay. The law also allows teachers to take ten days of sick leave per year due to illness or other emergencies without loss of pay. Unused sick leave can be carried over from one year to the next.

In Arsement’s case, it is clear that he took paid sick leave on many days when he was actually playing politics in Baton Rouge. Moreover, you don’t have to take my word for it, as he admits as much several times on his blog. Here are just a few examples…

What this means is that Arsement was off doing political advocacy while his special needs students were left with a substitute (who also had to be paid) and taxpayers foot the bill. I would venture to guess that most people would find that unacceptable, especially the parents of his students.

Missing absences?

If that’s not bad enough, I’ve also identified at least one day – and possibly two days – where his attendance record says he was working, but he was actually in Baton Rouge.

Several sources have confirmed that Arsement was at the Capitol during school hours on May 2nd. Nevertheless, his attendance record does not mark him absent on that date. Why that absence is missing is unclear, but since teachers verify their timesheets, the error should have been corrected.

The second day in question is May 8th when, by his own admission, he proudly delivered a petition calling for the removal of John White to the office of Senate President John Alario. Although he does not indicate when he made that delivery, one assumes he didn’t hop in his car immediately when school ended at 3:10pm to drive two hours to Baton Rouge to drop it off. In any case, Arsement is not marked absent on May 8th, either.

Exactly why reform is needed

When Arsement claims education reform supporters “demonize” teachers, what he means is that they actually expect teachers to do the work they’re paid to do. While this may seem draconian to someone who can apparently skip entire days of work and get away with it, this is not a radical concept to most of us. When taxpayers hand over their hard-earned money to pay for public education, they expect teachers to teach. When parents send their children off to school, they expect their kids will actually spend the day learning. When Arsement instead takes a bunch of sick days to lobby lawmakers for lower standards and less accountability, he’s breaking that social contract and possibly the law. Worst of all, he’s doing a tremendous disservice to the young people in his classroom – kids who need the most help.

In his effort to rollback Louisiana’s education reform policies, Arsement has inadvertently provided a real-life illustration of why they are so desperately needed. For that at least, I thank him.

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Charters

PSA: NAACP Charter School Hearing Tonight Don't Let Critics Distort The Story In New Orleans

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Tonight, the NAACP will be holding a hearing on charter schools at the New Orleans City Council Chambers (1300 Perdido Street) starting at 5:30pm. It will be the sixth hearing that the NAACP has held in cities across the country following their inexplicable call for a moratorium on charter schools last fall.

Flyer for tonight’s NAACP hearing.

The NAACP’s call for a moratorium has been roundly criticized by education reform advocates, as well as by the editorial board of The New York Times, which called the move “a misguided attack” by an organization that “has struggled in recent years to win over younger African-Americans, who often see the group as out of touch.” The Washington Post was even more scathing in their take on the moratorium, linking the NAACP’s recent turn against charters to the substantial financial support the group has received from the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.

Angry charter school parents from Memphis confronted NAACP officials at their national meeting in Cincinnati last fall.

In any case, NAACP officials have apparently decided to dispense with any pretense of objectivity at tonight’s meeting by inviting a number of outspoken charter opponents to speak, including:

  • Bill Quigley, a law professor at Loyola who filed a specious civil rights complaint against a local charter network that was eventually dismissed by the Louisiana Department of Education for lack of evidence;
     
  • Walter Umrani, an anti-charter candidate for the District 4 seat on the Orleans Parish School Board who received only 13% of the vote;
     
  • Willie Zanders, the lead attorney in the class action lawsuit against the Orleans Parish School Board and State of Louisiana over the layoffs of school board employees following Hurricane Katrina that was dismissed by the Louisiana Supreme Court;
     
  • Adrienne Dixson, a former education professor from Illinois who recently compared the education landscape in New Orleans to “The Hunger Games”;


  • State Rep. Joe Bouie who has used his position on the House Education Committee to spread misinformation about charter schools and engage in obstructionism, as seen below.

Charter school supporters need to attend tonight’s NAACP hearing to ensure that the truth is heard and that the positive impact that charters have had on the children of this city is not denied.

I hope to see you there!

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