A teachers’ union filed a lawsuit Monday that contends the state is improperly spending $60 million per year for certain charter schools.
The legal challenge was filed by the Louisiana Association of Educators, which is one of Louisiana’s two teacher unions.
It was filed in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge.
The group claims that two types of charter schools are illegally collecting dollars from the key source of aid for public schools — Louisiana’s $3.6 billion Minimum Foundation Program.
The LAE says neither type qualifies as “parish and city school systems” that the state constitution requires to get MFP funds.
“This lawsuit will make sure that the MFP funds are spent where the people of this state want them to be spent,” LAE President Debbie Meaux told reporters.
Charter schools are public schools without much of the red tape associated with traditional public schools.
Caroline Roemer Shirley, president of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, said Monday she thinks the number is now up to 138 schools.
New Orleans has one of the heaviest presences of charter schools in the nation.
The state has five types of charters.
The two targeted by the lawsuit are those authorized by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and those approved by local groups.
In a prepared statement, state Superintendent of Education John White called the legal challenge a money grab.
“The goal of this lawsuit is to stop taxpaying parents from choosing the school they think is best for their children,” White said.
“More money for unions and school boards, less for public schools not overseen by unions and school boards,” he said. “To the union, the desires of the taxpaying parents don’t matter.”
Brian Blackwell, an attorney for the LAE, said the lawsuit is an outgrowth of an earlier one won by the LAE that challenged the use of MFP dollars for vouchers used by some students to attend private schools.
Blackwell said the state constitution does not say MFP dollars should go to public schools but to city and parish school systems.
He said that language was approved by voters in 1973 before the advent of charter schools.
The state has 33 charter schools authorized solely by BESE that get state aid through the MFP, according to a list provided by the LAE.
There are seven in East Baton Rouge Parish, six in Orleans Parish, three in Lafayette Parish and two in Jefferson Parish.
The tally includes the Louisiana Key Academy, Louisiana Connections Academy and Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy, all in Baton Rouge and International School of Louisiana, Lycee Francais de la Nouvelle Orleans and the MAX Charter School, all in New Orleans.
A wide range of LAE affiliates, include those in East Baton Rouge and Lafayette parishes, are among the plaintiffs.
Defendants include BESE and the state Department of Education.
The case was assigned to state District Judge Wilson Fields.
No hearing date has been set.
The legal challenge is separate from one filed earlier on a similar issue in Iberville Parish.
That lawsuit, which was also filed in the 19th Judicial District Court, says that $4 million in state aid was unfairly diverted from the Iberville school system to a newly opened charter school in Plaquemine and another charter in Baton Rouge.