What if I told you that an educational nonprofit, in existence for only three years, could bypass local school boards and taxpayer oversight, essentially becoming its own school district, empowered to create new schools across multiple parishes? That it would garner control of state and local taxes and be allowed to grab 2 percent of each child’s funding as an “authorization fee”? That its authorizer status could be revoked only if its average score was D or F?

What if I told you this organization would enjoy these rights, even if its track record of chosen charter operators included fraud, civil rights complaints and failing schools?

It’s true. A revision to the 2012 Louisiana charter school law allows for the creation of Local Charter Authorizers, or LCAs, entities enjoying all of these rights. New Schools for Baton Rouge, commissioned in 2011 to privatize public education, is now vying to become an LCA.

In 2012, NSBR recruited six charter operators to our area, giving them millions to offset startup costs. But these charter operators have poor records. Consider the three charter operators that NSBR called the “IBMs of charter organizations:” FUSE, Collegiate Academies, and Celerity.

FUSE was dropped as a charter operator shortly before the 2014 school year. Its executive director had a criminal record. He lied on FUSE’s application. FUSE’s lax background checks allowed a sex offender to be employed as a community outreach coordinator in Connecticut.

A civil rights complaint was filed against Collegiate Academies of New Orleans for violations concerning students with disabilities, excessive suspension rates and ESL students. The organization “voluntarily” resolved the matter without legal action.

All three schools operated by Celerity earned an SPS score reflecting an F letter grade. To be fair, these schools were lower on the F scale when Celerity first inherited them from Advance Baton Rouge.

This is NSBR’s “track record of excellence,” despite receiving millions from the Louisiana Department of Education and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. This illustrates why LCAs should not continue to exist. LCAs allow organizations with questionable track records, no ties to our communities, no oversight by elected officials and minimal oversight by BESE, to authorize charter schools across Louisiana. Thankfully, Sen. Dan Morrish has introduced a bill that would restore much-needed accountability. Please call your legislators. Tell them you support Senate Bill 260. Insist that taxpayer money remain in the hands of someone we can vote out of office.

Leslie Defley

One Community/ One School District

Baton Rouge