By Chunlin Leonhard
The Act 467 Working Group has recently proposed to revamp New Orleans public school funding formulas intending to increase funding for children with special needs. While this is a laudable goal, the proposed new formula takes desperately needed funds away from schools serving children from middle class families of all races. The proposed funding formula threatens to undo recent progress in making high quality public schools a realistic and viable option for middle class parents of all races. Taking desperately needed funds away from schools such as Audubon Charter School, Warren Easton, Ben Franklin, Edward Hynes, Lusher, McMain, and McDonogh #35 Academy, will only serve to weaken public school education overall by forcing middle class parents out of the New Orleans public school system.
When my husband and I relocated to New Orleans six years ago with two school-age children, we lived through the difficulties faced by parents when deciding which schools to send our children. My husband and I both believe strongly in public-school education for our children. We are grateful to have a viable public school option here in New Orleans. (I began serving on the Lusher School Board in August 2013, but I am expressing my own personal opinion here.)
There is no doubt that we have to do a better job educating the most needy children, but not at the expense of middle class families and a sustainable public school system. The middle class families’ support of a public school education for their children is critically necessary to a functioning and sustainable public school system in New Orleans. Over the years, I have observed a gradually increasing interest in New Orleans families to send their children to the public schools. Policymakers should try to adopt funding policies which would foster instead of stifling the interest.
Strong middle class support of our public schools will result in a better public school system to the benefit of ALL children in the long run. The Act 467 Working Group’s cynical and short sighted proposal unfortunately pits families with special-needs kids against middle-class families instead of focusing on building a quality public school system that meets the needs of ALL who desire a public education.
Chunlin Leonhard is an associate professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and a member of the Lusher Charter School board.