Lafayette board defers charter school votes

The Lafayette Parish School Board voted 5-4 late Wednesday to defer a decision on Type 1 charter school applications from two separate nonprofit groups for more time to review its options.

“We don’t have to act on this charter application for 90 days ... I think we should take advantage of this time to think this out in a very deep way as to the actual needs of our district,” said board member Mark Allen Babineaux.

Superintendent Pat Cooper said the board must act within 90 days of application’s submission, which sets the deadline for Oct. 26.

The board voted about 15 minutes before midnight. Babineaux and board members Greg Awbrey, Hunter Beasley, Rae Trahan and Tehmi Chassion voted in support of deferment. Board members Kermit Bouillion, Mark Cockerham, Shelton Cobb and Tommy Angelle voted against waiting to make a decision.

Inspire Charter Academy Inc. proposed two K-8 schools to be managed by National Heritage Academies of Michigan. Only one of the K-8 schools, set to open in August 2014, was considered by the board due to a district staff oversight in preparing the agenda. The other school could be considered at a later date.

The second application, from Lafayette Charter Foundation Inc. proposed a total of three schools: the first, a K-8 school to open next August; a second K-8 to open in 2015 and a high school for 2017.

Schools of the type that have applied are called “Type 1” charter schools. They receive a share of the district’s per student funding that comes from the state, just like other schools in the district. However, the charter schools have an independent school board.

Both charter companies’ applications have been vetted at the state level and have been recommended for approval. Representatives of both companies have said they will appeal to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to open Type 2 charter schools in the district if the Lafayette board denies their Type 1 applications. As a Type 2 charter, the schools would still receive per pupil funding, but BESE would provide oversight.

“You need to decide one way or another tonight,” said Younsgville Mayor Wilson Viator to the parish School Board. “These companies are wanting to build.”

At least two of the planned charter schools will likely be built in Youngsville, where schools are overcrowded.

The board discussed other charter school options such as creating lab schools at the district’s two lowest-performing schools, J.W. Faulk and Alice Boucher elementary schools in partnership with universities or even charter management companies.

A date for the workshop was not set Wednesday.