Almost a year after agreeing to the idea in principle, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday tentatively approved contracts with a Texas-based group and a New Orleans-based group to open as many as eight charter schools by 2022 that could enroll more than 11,000 children.
Rio Grande Valley-based IDEA Public Schools plans to open two charter schools in Baton Rouge in fall 2018 followed by a third in 2020 and a fourth in 2021. They would be K-12 schools divided between an elementary “academy” and a secondary “college.” The proposed contract allows them to enroll as many as 6,144 students and state law would allow them to enroll another 1,228.
Inspire NOLA Charter Schools, based in New Orleans, plans to open a high school as well as three more elementary schools. The proposed contract allows them to enroll as many as 3,187 students and state law would allow them to enroll another 637.
Public education funding for that many students could eventually top $100 million a year.
The vote Thursday was 6-0 and discussion was limited. Board member David Tatman was absent and board members Vereta Lee and Kenyetta Nelson-Smith abstained. A final vote is set for May 18 when the board holds its regular monthly meeting.
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Wednesday approved a charter school group from t…
IDEA and Inspire NOLA were approved last May 25 in a 6-3 vote, only two of 10 applicants approved. Lee and Nelson-Smith were joined that night by board member Dawn Collins in opposition. Both charter school organizations were recruited and have the financial backing of the prominent nonprofit New Schools for Baton Rouge.
Charter schools are public schools run by private organizations under short-term contracts. The proposed contracts for IDEA and Inspire NOLA would run for five years.
Ken Campbell, executive director of IDEA, was present for Thursday’s vote. Campbell is a former director of the state’s charter school office.
“This contract is key. Right now we’re at the phase of being able to close out the finances, of dotting the i's and crossing the t’s,” Campbell said after the meeting. “Getting this done now is important to keeping our commitment to parents and kids but also to the district.”
Campbell said one of IDEA’s schools will be in north Baton Rouge and the other in south Baton Rouge and they will be in newly constructed buildings.
The location of the north Baton Rouge school will likely be just north of Cortana Mall on 15 acres IDEA has reached a purchase agreement to buy, pending the approval of the contract with the school district, Campbell said.
IDEA has had lengthy discussions with LSU about locating the south Baton Rouge school on LSU property in the Gardere area, but Campbell said those talks are still ongoing and he hopes they will be resolved in the next two weeks.
Campbell said the contract talks were slowed by the aftermath of the August flood, but they’ve been amiable throughout.
Domoine Rutledge, general counsel for the school system, had similar things to say.
“It’s been a pleasure working with them. It’s very collaborative, and we hope to have (the contract) done in the near future,” Rutledge said.
Rutledge said the contracts for IDEA and Inspire NOLA will be identical but the addenda known as “exhibits,” several of which are still being negotiated, will be different.
Campbell said he worked with Rutledge to make the language in the contract mirror the language in other charter school contracts that the state has with charter school groups.
A prominent nonprofit group that has helped lure several charter schools to Baton Rouge anno…
IDEA, which started in the Rio Grande Valley, runs 51 schools and educates 30,000 children and has schools that have made national best high school lists. All of its schools so far are in Texas, in the Rio Grande, Austin and San Antonio areas.
Inspire NOLA runs three charter schools in New Orleans: two elementary schools and a high school. Alice Harte elementary and Edna Karr high school are both in Algiers and both have A letter grades from the state. The third school, Wilson Charter School, in Broadmoor, is in its second year. It received only a provisional “transition” letter grade from the state for its first year’s performance.