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

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Peter Cook
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Peter Cook mentioned this Article on peterccook.com.

Leila A. D\'Aquin
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Leila A. D\'Aquin

I suppose Peter Cook uses a young child’s photo to identify himself because that suits the level of discussion in which he intends to engage.
There is so much misinformation and distortion in this writing, that it is difficult to decide where to begin. Cook knows nothing about 14th Amendment jurisprudence. Nothing. He forgets that the RSD was never to take control of the long-time successful public schools in Orleans Parish. Never. Yet this scandalous ploy is nothing more and nothing less than a power play through which RSD and the money-grubbers to whom it outsources almost everything (and who then skim the cream from the top of school funding to line their pockets) seek to take control of and dismantle the schools that thrived under local control before Katrina and have continued to thrive.
The RSD has welcomed one after another private interest charter operator through its revolving door, every other year slapping new names onto schools it was supposed to turn around & then return to local control. It has chased away career educators, and hired in their place too many twenty-somethings who will hold what frequently amounts to a paid internship (for whose 6 weeks of training and placement TFA is handsomely paid), through which they come to realize that teaching requires professional training that they lack and consists of hard work of a type they are not interested in doing.
All of the children of Orleans Parish deserve for their education to be funded in the same way and at the same level as the children in the rest of Louisiana. The current funding formula provides a substantial enhancement for special needs children, and it provides the same level of enhancement regardless of the parish in which the child lives. Likewise, it provides a smaller enhancement — in uniform manner — for other children requiring special education services.
Cook’s belief that the RSD’s failures should be blamed on non-RSD schools; that the reward for success should be a slashed budget, while the reward for failure should be more money to spend on more consultants and private interests seeking to profit from public education tax dollars; and that it is acceptable to use special needs children as pawns in a shell game, is outlandish. His suggestion is that rather than looking for ways to enhance special needs programs with new revenues the resources dedicated to regular education in Orleans Parish only should be stolen. This is not a heroic Robin Hood approach: it is a load of propaganda and an attempt to hoodwink the people of Orleans Parish, particularly by providing false information to the many who do not have children in public school and who Cook hopes will simply accept the hyped emotional deception and not give it another thought.
There is a reason for the attempt to rush this issue to judgment: its proponents know that if given due consideration, the proposal will be rejected because it lacks any foundation in reality or in the articulated policies and goals of this state.

Adam Levine
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Adam Levine

Peter Cook argues that Lusher administrators are misleading parents without ever laying out clear arguments for how this is occurring. The argument that BESE is acting precipitously without normal due process seems valid. Efforts to raise objections have been met with “stonewalling” tactics. Happy to slow down and get the right answers on behalf of our children. I’d be curious to know whether Peter Cook has been hired as a PR consultant for BESE?

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