St. Charles Parish School Board members are decrying a new law that will allow students attending failing schools in outside parishes to attend St. Charles Parish Public Schools this year.
The Louisiana Public School Choice Act passed during the 2014 legislative session and became law after Gov. Bobby Jindal signed it earlier this year.
The law allows students who are currently attending “D” and “F” rated schools to attend other public schools that are not failing, as long as the schools have room for the students.
John Smith, St. Charles Parish School Board member and president of the Louisiana School Board Association, said the big problem with the law is that the funding for the students will be inequitable.
St. Charles Parish Public Schools receives around $14,000 a year in combined local and state taxes for each student. According to Smith, the students who would be coming in from failing schools would be funded at a much lower rate.
“We will only be getting $2,500 per child that will be coming into St. Charles Parish, so we are going to be at a loss in terms of trying to supplement that financial burden. It is going to be very difficult in many instances,” he said.
In addition to not providing enough funding, Smith said he is worried about ambiguities in the law that may require the school to open empty classrooms and hire teachers for the incoming students.
“This will have serious consequences for our school district and we will need to monitor and keep very close tabs on this to make sure that our children are afforded the best quality education possible,” he said.
The reimbursement St. Charles Parish Public Schools and other successful school districts would receive per student is much lower than that provided to private and parochial schools under the Student Scholarships for Educational Excellence program, also known as the voucher program.
“They can go to a private or parochial school and take with them nearly $14,000, but if the same child opts to come to St. Charles Parish, he only brings with him $2,500,” Smith said.
School Board member Arthur Aucoin agreed that the funding for the Louisiana Public School Choice Act is unfair.
"(Lawmakers) are doing that and not funding it, that is the bottom line. They want us to fund it,” he said.