The Lusher Charter School governing board plans to drop its lawsuit over the Orleans Parish School Board’s new school-funding formula for this year, but may revive it if the formula is changed again to create any deeper cuts to the school’s budget in the future.
With the looming reunification of the Recovery School District into the Orleans Parish School Board, the state legislature ordered the two entities to create a new formula for allocating per-pupil tax money across all the public schools in New Orleans. The result gives more money per student for various categories of special-needs children, but reduces the amount allocated for gifted students — and those cuts prompted a federal lawsuit from Lusher and Lake Forest.
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo sided with the OPSB last month, saying the OPSB didn’t violate its charter contract with Lusher by changing the school-funding formula, according to a report by Andrew Vanacore of our partners at The New Orleans Advocate. But the judge also said Lusher and Lake Forest could pursue a procedural complaint within the lawsuit in state court, over whether the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should also approve the new formula.
Lusher’s board met Monday night to decide whether to accept Milazzo’s ruling or appeal it to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and spent about 15 minutes in a closed-door briefing with attorney James Brown. When they emerged, they unanimously voted for Brown to drop the lawsuit for this year only, but reserving the right to appeal it later. If the OPSB won’t agree to letting Lusher reserve the right to appeal later, the board said, then Brown should start the appeal now.
During the hearing before Milazzo, OPSB officials calculated that the new funding formula will result in a cut to Lusher’s budget of about $554,000 and of more than $200,000 to Lake Forest, Brown said. Moreover, it will also prevent Lusher’s allocation from growing even if tax proceeds are higher than expected, he said.
“A large component of our loss is that we will not participate in projected future growth in the local portion of the MFP,” Brown said. “The School Board’s projection are for perhaps more substantial growth than had previously been predicted, so that increases our loss. We will be less than we were last year, but we also won’t grow.”
The school will try to work with that formula this year, but the OPSB also has the ability to change it again — and the OPSB crafts a new formula that cuts Lusher’s allocation even more deeply, the Lusher board wants to be able to revive its lawsuit, explained board chair Rachel Wisdom after the meeting.
“There’s no telling what they’re going to do,” Wisdom said of the OPSB. “They have the ability to go back and change that. If they do that, it would result for an even greater funding loss for us, and we would have to look at that.”
To read our live coverage of Monday’s meeting, see below.