In “On Charters Vitter Has Right Answer,” The Advocate editors go all in for charter schools and demonstrate no understanding of the issues that arise with the creation of privately run schools paid for with taxpayer dollars.

They declare Vitter the better candidate on this issue since he believes BESE should override local school boards’ denials of some charter school applications. The Advocate fails to acknowledge or declare what’s at stake.

LRS 17:3972 — The Charter Schools Demonstration Programs Law — points to the fundamental difference between Vitter and Edwards on charter schools. When approved and operated in accordance with the clear intent of the law — to experiment with different educational models that can then be replicated in the traditional public school system, with the primary goal of meeting education needs of at-risk students — then charter schools can serve a useful purpose. But when a charter school application instead offers nothing unique or different in the educational model, relies on such things as military-style student discipline that cannot possibly be replicated across a school district or proposes to open in affluent areas without offering bus transportation to at-risk students living outside of the affluent neighborhood, such proposals fail to meet the intent of the law.

Through its override policy, BESE has awarded Type 2 charters to groups proposing to operate such schools that do not comply with the intent of the law. There is no check on BESE’s authority and little effective oversight on charter schools. Charters are exempt from most of the general school law. Traditional public schools are not. As a result, though both are publicly funded, charter schools operate under lax rules while traditional public schools operate under strict, often burdensome, rules.

Moreover, if a charter school thinks a student is too difficult to educate, due to performance, discipline or disability, the charter school can advise the parent to relocate their student.

Where do those students go? To the traditional public school, which they have a RIGHT to attend, despite their performance, discipline issues or disability.

The major difference between Vitter and Edwards on charter schools is on BESE’s authority to issue Type 2 charters.

When the local school board, after a mandatory third-party review, has determined that the application does not comply with the intent of the charter school law, Edwards intends to respect that local decision. Vitter remains unconcerned about compliance with the law and favors a BESE override of local control. Edwards believes charters should comply with the intent of the law and favors local control. So do we.

Tania Nyman

Friends of Public Education

Baton Rouge