Lafayette considers charter schools

A charter school has never been approved in Lafayette Parish, but that may be about to change.

Two national groups, Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies, have asked for permission to open four charter schools in the district.

Charter schools are public schools run by independent organizations with permission and oversight from state or local officials.

“If they come up with a proposal that’s reasonable, the board may go for it,” Lafayette Parish School Board President Shelton Cobb said. “I know they are going to consider it. I think we all aim to improve. One concern is that every time you give the charter schools a dollar, you take away from the system. But, personally, I’m not opposed to anything that would be positive for the kids.”

Lafayette Parish Superintendent Pat Cooper said the companies were ranked the best during a vetting process conducted by the district, the state and an independent third party hired by the state.

“It’s a good fit for us in terms of the timing, just because we’re growing right now and we don’t have enough money to build new schools,” Cooper said. “These companies have a really good track record. It’s not like they haven’t done this before.

The bottom line is we would like to have charters that come in and who are willing to work with us in terms of the turnaround plan.”

The Daily Advertiser reports that a review of the companies’ operations in other states shows their schools have mixed results. Based on standardized test scores and student achievement, many schools are about average and do not perform significantly better or worse than traditional public schools in their areas.

Some schools stand out, with better test scores than comparable schools and almost no discipline problems.

Still, others have struggled with low test scores and hundreds of suspensions for problems such as fighting and disruptive behavior.