Impact Of Charter School Funding Decision Delayed By Court

BATON ROUGE (AP) — State financing will keep flowing to more than 30 Louisiana public charter schools next week, under a late Friday ruling from an appellate court.

         The court ruled this month that money from Louisiana's public school funding formula can't pay for charter schools created by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. But the court also agreed Friday to delay the impact of that ruling, while the case continues to wind its way to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

         Without a stay, Superintendent of Education John White said the state wouldn't have been able to send the next monthly payment Wednesday to those charter schools.

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         "Charter schools are small, independent nonprofit entities, and obviously, one month's revenue can be a big blow to your cash flow," White said.

         The state asked the appellate court to delay its ruling until the Louisiana Supreme Court decides whether the charter school funding is proper. The court ruled 4-1 for the stay, which lasts through Feb. 8. The delay will be automatically extended "until the Supreme Court has disposed of the case" if the state education department and the education board appeal to the high court as White said is planned.

         Charter schools are public schools, funded with taxpayer dollars but operated by independent organizations under agreements approved by state or local education officials. The operators of the schools in question were granted charters by the state education board, rather than local school boards. They were funded through a Legislature-approved formula that governs the way tax dollars, state and local, are doled out to individual local school districts.

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         A number of local education officials and a teachers union, the Louisiana Association of Educators, argued in lawsuits that funding the state-chartered schools through a formula meant to fund local school districts violates the Louisiana Constitution.

         The 1st Circuit Court of Appeal agreed in a 3-2 decision, overturning a prior ruling from Fields that the charter school financing was legal.

         Lawmakers could opt to fund the charters separately from the formula. But that would require full state financing — rather than paying for the schools with a mix of state and local tax dollars — boosting costs for Louisiana's operating budget amid recurring financial problems.

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