Former Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek has filed a petition in federal court to intervene in the lawsuit brought by Lusher and Lake Forest charter schools against the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) over looming changes to the district’s school funding formula.
Pastorek, who is a lawyer by trade, filed the intervention on behalf of a group of New Orleans public school parents of children with special needs. They’re asking the court to demand that OPSB take immediate action to formally approve the new funding formula, asserting that the current system discriminates against special education students and students of minority racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The proposed plan allocates funds based on a weighted formula that more accurately reflects the added costs of serving children with special needs, English Language Learners, and at-risk and overage students. It is modeled on the funding system currently in use in the Recovery School District – whose schools serve a disproportionate number of the city’s highest-need students – in order to ensure that schools have the financial capacity to serve all students regardless of disability status.
A handful of selective-admissions charter schools under the oversight of OPSB would likely see an overall reduction in their annual funding since they enroll few students with special needs. 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.
Last month, the board approved a resolution that gives OPSB Superintendent Henderson Lewis the power to apportion district funds among the city’s public schools as he sees fit. Since Lewis was a member of the working group that devised the new formula, the resolution effectively allowed board members to approve the funding change without having to vote on it. In response, Lusher attorney James Brown filed a lawsuit on behalf of Lusher and Lake Forest, both selective-admissions OPSB charters, seeking to block the implementation of the plan.
The families represented by Pastorek are worried that Lusher and Lake Forest’s legal challenge could derail the plan, and as a result, want the board to formally adopt the new funding formula without delay. As Pastorek said in a press release on the court filing:
“The parents are firmly opposed to the efforts by these two selective-enrollment schools to maintain a status quo formula that denies the neediest students the resources needed to assure them of an excellent education.”