AMITE — The Tangipahoa Parish School Board said Wednesday it would not stand in the way of a charter school planning to open in Hammond this fall, as long as the school does not affect the district’s desegregation goals or take local tax funds from the district.
The Tangipahoa Charter School Association received approval in August from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to start a charter school, Tangi Academy, for prekindergarten through eighth grades, after the School Board denied approval for the new school in December 2013.
The association is seeking permission to begin operating this fall from U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle, in New Orleans, who oversees the parish’s 50-year-old desegregation case.
Tangi Academy had received more than 150 applications for the 200 spots available for the 2015-16 school year by February, when the association asked for court approval to open. The school plans to ramp up enrollment over a five-year period, topping out at 450 students, court records show.
TCSA officials said in court filings that the new school would help alleviate the strain on Loranger and Ponchatoula schools, which have students transferring in from the lower-performing Hammond schools.
“Opening an academically challenging charter school in Hammond proper will offer families an alternative to busing their children out of the community and significantly reduce the district’s transportation costs,” TCSA said in its BESE application materials, which were filed with the federal court.
TCSA said the school will draw a diverse student population. Nearly half of the applicants for the 2015-16 school year are black and 40 percent are white, court records show.
The School Board’s attorneys are still working with plaintiffs’ attorneys on an agreement for a new student assignment plan to desegregate the schools. The board’s vote Wednesday underscored its intention to progress toward that goal.
School Board President Brett Duncan said after the meeting that the board wants to protect its locally collected tax funds as well.
State funding formulas for public school systems include a local funding match on a per-student basis. Duncan said the School Board will not oppose Tangi Academy’s opening, as long as the district does not have to pay the charter school that per-student local funding amount.
“The state funds will follow those students, as they should, but we should be allowed to keep our local tax funds, which were dedicated to supporting the parish’s public school system, here in the district’s schools,” Duncan said.
Tangi Academy will provide arts-integrated programming, which the TCSA says “cultivates the whole child, gradually building many kinds of literacy while developing intuition, reasoning, imagination and dexterity into unique forms of expression and communication.”
The academy’s school calendars will coincide with the parish school system’s calendar to make it easier on parents with children in both schools, TCSA said in its application materials. The group also plans to offer spots in its professional development program to school system teachers at no cost to the teachers or the parish.
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