The Lusher Charter School governing board voted Monday morning to dismiss its lawsuit over the new school funding formula — unless the formula is changed to reduce Lusher’s funding significantly in the future.
With the reunification of the Recovery School District and Orleans Parish School Board on the horizon, leaders of both entities worked together this spring to write a new formula to distribute the state’s allocation of per-pupil tax dollars to schools. The new formula, similar to the RSD’s previous formula, attached more state money to special-education students and less to gifted students — which resulted in a cut in the budget of schools like Lusher with proportionally more gifted students and less in special ed.
“The impact on our funding this one year, I believe we calculated to be $554,000 this one year,” said Lusher attorney James Brown. “That was confirmed during the testimony by [OPSB Chief Financial Officer] Stan Smith during the trial.”
Lusher filed suit over the formula change, arguing that the funding change in the middle of its 10-year charter violated its contract with the OPSB. After a federal judge rejected that argument, the Lusher board voted in October to drop the lawsuit, but with the provision that it could resurrect it at any time if the funding formula is changed in a way that negatively affects Lusher.
That arrangement was not accepted, so Lusher filed an appeal of the decision against it while it weighed further options. At a planning retreat held Monday morning at the Jones Walker law firm, Brown presented the board with a revised proposal to drop the lawsuit, and agree not to revive it unless the formula is changed again to cut Lusher’s funding by more than 1 percent based on its current mix of students.
Monday’s resolution is essentially a more specific version of the October proposal, and Brown said it represented a spirit of “agreement and reconciliation,” while still reserving Lusher’s right to protect its funding in the future.
“This stipulation is beneficial in the sense that it expresses the strong belief that the MFP shouldn’t change substantially in the future,” Brown said. “But if it were to change substantially in the future, that would not be right and that would not be fair, and we would have the right to bring future litigation.”
The board voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, and granted Brown the discretion to revise its language further if necessary without changing the substance of it. Brown said he planned to meet with the Lake Forest charter board — whom he also represents in the lawsuit — and with OPSB attorneys this week in hopes of finalizing the agreement.
Most of the three-hour board retreat was taken up with the closed-door executive session about that lawsuit and the pending teachers’ union complaint, but the board also handled some other internal business.
- The board changed its bylaws to create term limits. It also added reasons by which a board member can be removed, such as for conviction of a felony offense or failure to attend meetings, and instituted an anti-nepotism clause, prohibiting board members from being the spouses of Lusher employees.
- The board also adopted staggered terms for the current members, so their terms do not all expire at once.
- The board dissolved its “professional excellence” committee that was to have oversight over teacher and staff issues. Its controversial creation last year by former board chair Blaine LeCesne prefigured the subsequent bitter fight over the teacher’s union at Lusher.
- The board also proposed holding fewer meetings per year and more committee meetings in between, but deferred a decision.
To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below.