West Feliciana Parish School Superintendent Hollis Milton is expecting only a marginal increase of students for the 2015-16 school year, thanks to the Louisiana School Choice Act, or Act 853, which became law in 2014.
Parents with students in underperforming schools that earn a letter grade of D or F can apply to send those students to any school in the state with performance grades of A, B or C.
The stipulation is that the district is not required to provide transportation for the prospective incoming student. Exceptions also may apply if the home district is under a desegregation consent decree.
Parents have until June 30 to complete the application form on the West Feliciana School Board’s website to apply for admission to parish schools.
So far, Milton said, eight students have applied to attend West Feliciana schools, although he didn’t know the breakdown for grade levels of the students. Six of them were from East Feliciana and two were from Pointe Coupee, he said.
Milton said it is up to each school’s district to determine its student capacity for each grade. If a school is at its capacity, it can refuse to admit additional students that might place a burden on resources or that would force the district to hire additional teachers or personnel to accommodate the influx.
“The way we’re doing capacity, we’re going to protect the West Feliciana taxpayers first,” Milton said.
Under the Minimum Foundation Program, Louisiana annually applies a formula designed to equitably allocate funding for the state’s school districts. After satisfying all mandated requirements, school districts have the flexibility to spend the funding to meet the needs of their schools and students.
Milton said the state’s MFP allocation for West Feliciana was $4,881 per student in 2014-15, $6,220 per student for East Feliciana and $4,437 for Pointe Coupee. The 2015-16 MFP reimbursement won’t be known until July 5, he said. If a student transfers to another district, that district will receive the MFP funding that student would be allocated in his or her home district.
Milton said because West Feliciana has a low teacher-student ratio for most classes — the district ranks in the top 10 in the state for low teacher-student ratios — the system can absorb some new students without much burden.
“We have to be in compliance with the law,” Milton said. “At the same time, there are measures in place to protect our students’ achievement and our school climate, meaning protect our teachers and programs, and our taxpayers.”
He said the system will be very conservative with the number of students it will accept, particularly this first year. But, he said, the additional students will bring additional financial resources that can be used to add programs and services that would not have been within reach.
“The goal is to protect the students we already have; that’s most important,” Milton said. “But if we have an empty desk, and adding a student doesn’t affect the quality of the education of our existing students, and it can add some $5,000 for additional resources for a teacher to use to benefit our students in a particular grade, then it can have a positive impact for our students and our teachers and our schools.”