A committee of Louisiana's top school board Monday authorized four charter schools despite complaints that the move is a mistake amid a court fight over funding.
The school that sparked lengthy discussions, Baton Rouge University Preparatory Inc., is one of a handful that the state Department of Education recommended for approval by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Three others were later endorsed, including one not recommended by the department.
The two Baton Rouge schools were earlier rejected by the East Baton Rouge Parish school board.
They also got caught up in a larger debate on whether BESE should approve one specific type of charter school whose state funding has been ruled illegal by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.
That decision, which already affects 32 schools and more than 16,000 students, is expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
State Superintendent of Education John White said last week the state cannot wait to offer new options for students, especially since the lawsuit will take months or longer.
Louisiana's funding of certain types of charter schools hit a snag following a ruling Monday…
The school, known as UP Elementary, is part of the Recovery School District.
It serves students from kindergarten through fifth grade.
"We are doing great things for our students," Meghan Turner, founder of the school, told BESE. "We are out of space."
White made the same point earlier.
"We have a space situation at this school," he said.
Backers said the fact the state Department of Education recommended approval is significant because the state has one of the most rigorous charter school reviews in the nation.
"It is clear the department has followed the letter of the law," said Eva Kemp, state director of the Louisiana branch of Democrats for Education Reform.
Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, whose group is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said the prudent move would be for BESE to delay action on the application. Meaux said state officials have to be careful about making education promises to families.
The proposal also sparked criticism from East Baton Parish School District Superintendent Warren Drake.
The school has shared space at what used to be Glen Oaks Middle School. Drake said school officials sought more space and he tried to answer those concerns.
He also questioned how the school was authorized initially.
"We are not against charters," Drake said. "But there is a decorum and a policy here."
School backers said a new building is needed for the school to thrive and expand.
Turner said school officials have waited three years to have their concerns addressed.
"Our kids don't have time to wait," she said.
The vote on UP Elementary was 5-2.
Jada Lewis, a BESE member from Baton Rouge, abstained.
The committee also approved charter applications for Collegiate Academies in Baton Rouge, Jefferson Chamber Foundation Academy in Lafayette and Red River Charter in Avoyelles Parish, which was not recommended by White's agency.