As president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, I felt the need to respond to a recent letter to the editor titled “Lawsuit against La. key funding must be dropped.”
The LAE’s membership consists of teachers and professional school support staff — Louisiana educators who are committed to providing the best educational experience possible to schoolchildren across the state. It is part of the association’s mission to promote quality public schools that lead to student success.
A huge factor in determining school quality is proper funding. An adequately, equitably funded school system takes into account the real costs of supporting and nurturing Louisiana’s youth — costs that include keeping classrooms updated with cutting-edge technology, resources for special-needs students, updated learning materials and quality professional development for teachers. The devastating state and local budget cuts to our traditional public schools prevent districts from being able to keep up with the growing price tag that comes with maintaining a 21st century learning environment, and this hinders the success of all Louisiana’s schoolchildren. The members of LAE consider school funding to be a top priority, which is why they chose to take legal action on the improper use of MFP dollars.
LAE does not dispute the right for charter schools to exist; however, members of the association do believe that the state must fully fund all avenues of public education and not pit one type of public school against the other. By definition, charter schools are free from many of the restrictions placed on traditional public schools, having almost complete autonomy with regard to how they operate, who they teach, what they teach, how — if at all — they measure student achievement, how they manage their finances and what they are required to disclose to parents and the public. Louisiana citizens approved taxing themselves to better the public schools in their home parishes; they deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent.
LAE members applaud schools that have experienced success through innovative teaching methods, as these institutions hold the potential to facilitate positive transformation and foster creative change through the sharing of effective practices with traditional public schools. Let us use any and every successful teaching model to benefit students in schools across Louisiana.
While LAE members support the notion of charter schools serving as incubators of innovation, they also agree that if these entities are going to receive public tax dollars, they must be fully accountable to the public and part of a unified educational system regulated and funded for equity and accessibility.