The East Feliciana Parish School Board’s recent decision to offer Slaughter Community Charter School a three-year renewal agreement should be considered an affront to the school’s students, teachers and families who have been part of Slaughter Community’s success story.
The School Board acted contrary to open meetings laws and best practices in coming to this decision, and their actions should serve as caution to those who want to hold local school boards — and the decisions they make — on a higher pedestal simply because they are locally elected.
As a locally authorized (“Type 1”) public charter school, Slaughter Community Charter School is a part of the School Board’s portfolio of public schools. According to state school performance results, Slaughter Community received a “B” grade in 2015 and 2014, outperforming all other School Board schools in both years. Yet, instead of celebrating these successes and offering the school a renewal term of seven years in accordance with its own policy, the board — with no explanation — offered the lowest possible renewal commitment, a term reserved for schools that have earned a letter grade of a D or an F.
Not only are the board’s actions contrary to its established policy on charter renewals, but they are contrary to governance best practices. It is unacceptable for any public body in this state to discuss such important decisions entirely in executive session, cutting off any public discourse and input from families, teachers and community members.
At the end of January, we will mark National School Choice Week, celebrating parents’ right to choose the best educational options for their students. Offering alternative pathways to quality public schools is not just good for families, but it’s good for schools, school districts and our state, as it adds a layer of accountability to entities that have been accustomed to a lack of accountability for too long.
With the recent actions of the School Board, we see how some locally elected board members still continue to serve their interests over the interests of communities they were elected to serve. What will become of our state public school system if our current school choice and accountability systems like school letter grades, state-authorized charter schools and the Recovery School District, are removed, and we are only left with the final decisions of local boards as some are calling upon us to do?
Slaughter Community’s families and teachers deserve better — they deserve a longer renewal term, which is important for the school’s stability as it continues its outstanding work with students. And the people of Louisiana deserve better than rolling back all of the progress we’ve made in pushing educational standards forward and improving choice, accountability and transparency for our educational system statewide.
executive director, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools