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Sep 11, 2013 10:09 PM by Tina Macias

Charter schools could open in Couret Farms, Sugar Mill Pond

The Lafayette Parish School Board learned more about charter schools today during a workshop about the privately-run public schools' operations and funding.

Last month, the board delayed approval of five charter schools until they could get more information. The board will revisit the issue during its Sept. 18 meeting, but one charter school is already moving forward with its plans.

Charter Schools USA has signed letters of intent to purchase eight acres of land in both the Sugar Mill Pond and Couret Farms developments, charter school officials announced today.

Although their charter application has not been approved, they spoke confidently about opening two K-8 schools by 2014. If the school board does not approve its charter, the group will appeal for a state charter.

Also during the meeting, the Lafayette Parish Association of Educators officially announced that it does not support the charter school applications, with president Rudy Espinoza saying that the applications are not innovated and would take resources away from traditional public school students.

"If you don't support these charters, vote no. We can go to BESE and take our fight there," Espinoza said.

Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Foundation have proposed opening five charter schools throughout the parish over the next four years. They would construct new privately-funded school buildings and their operations would be funded by state, federal and local tax dollars -- $8,000 to $9,000 that follow students from one school system to another.

If the school board approves the charters would enter into a four-year contacts with the charter groups and set performance standards, as well as without up to 2 percent of funding. It would be up to the school board to renew the contract, but even if it is revoked, the school buildings would not become school board property.

If the school board denies the charters, the groups could appeal to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which considers good charter applications to simply provide more options to parents.

The charter applications have already gone through the state's third-party reviewer through a partnership with the state and district and was recommended for approval.

"We have set very high standards. It's not easy to get a charter school application approved, especially at BESE. We approve about 50 percent of charter applications," said Erin Bendily, assistant superintendent at the department of education.


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