La. students get aid to attend Arkansas schools

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved plans for up to 100 students in northwest Louisiana to attend school in Arkansas with the state aid routed through a charter school in northeast Louisiana.

“There are lots of policy issues that are unanswered,” said Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association.

State officials said the arrangement is the only one of its kind in Louisiana.

The unusual plan stemmed from a decision in February by the Claiborne Parish School Board.

It ended a nearly century-old arrangement that allowed some Louisiana students to attend classes conducted by the Junction City School District No. 75.

The school is located in Junction City, Ark., which is divided in half by the state line separating Louisiana and Arkansas.

After the board’s move, some parents decided to set up a charter school, which would then execute a contract with the Junction City school system similar to what the Claiborne Parish School Board had for years.

The agreement would allow students to remain in Junction City rather than being bused to low-performing schools run by the Claiborne Parish school system, according the state Department of Education.

But the plan could not be finalized for the 2013-14 school year.

Instead, BESE approved an arrangement, prompted by parents, in which Delhi Charter School, which is in Richland Parish in northeast Louisiana, will enroll the students from Claiborne Parish.

Delhi is a Type 2 charter school, which means it can accept students from all over the state.

Delhi will then contract with Junction City School District No. 75 so that students can attend classes there for another year.

The plans won BESE committee approval on Tuesday.

The lone “no” votes were cast by Carolyn Hill, of Baton Rouge, and Lottie Beebe, of Breaux Bridge.

The full BESE board approved the change on Wednesday.

Richard said that, among other things, the arrangement is unusual because it means state school aid dollars for Claiborne Parish students will be sent to a charter school in Richland Parish “and follow kids into Arkansas.”

He also said that students could attend Summerfield High School in Summerfield, La., which includes students from prekindergarten through 12th grade.

It is rated C by the state.

Aid for the students could total up to $700,000.

Students will take LEAP and other tests and the results will count on Delhi Charter School’s annual school performance score, officials said.

Neither BESE President Chas Roemer nor Claiborne Parish Superintendent Janice Williams returned calls for comment on Friday.

Delhi Charter School Board President Albert Christman could not be reached for comment.