Aug 20, 2013 11:27 PM by Erin Steuber

Charter Schools Could be the Newest Addition in Lafayette Parish

Wednesday night, the Lafayette Parish School Board will vote on a proposal to bring five charter schools to the parish. The school board will consider partnering with two companies, . Like other charter schools, those with these companies would run on private donations and some public funds.

The proposal would bring five schools to the parish over the next four years. Two K-8 schools next year; Two the following year, and one high school in 2017.

Youngsville, one of the fastest growing areas in Lafayette Parish. As fast as new homes are going up, seats in the classroom are going down. Mayor Wilson Viator thinks charter schools could be the answer.

"We have to address this growth. Youngsville and Broussard are growing tremendously. If you put a charter school in the right position between Youngsville and Broussard it would succeed and it would accommodate all this growth we have coming," said Viator.

But critics, like board member Greg Awbry, say the argument doesn't add up because students from anywhere in the parish would be able to attend.

"If that state would allow a charter to be zoned I would be much more inclined to do it," said Awbrey. "It's sort of like a turn key school, but it doesn't help the district in overcrowding."

"It's not that I support all charter schools," said Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper. "I just support these particular ones because I think they're going to help us, at this particular time, to get us out of a real bind that we're in, in terms of our space needs."

Construction and operation of each school would be funded by the charter companies. The student's education, funded by the taxpayers.
"When we compare that little bit of money, which probably for one school it will be around , we're going to get a brand new school facility that we don't have to build," said Cooper. "So if you trade $15 million, against $700,000, that's not a bad trade."

But the way it's funded is a big red flag for some board members.

"The state funds them at a higher rate than we're able to fund public schools," said Awbrey. "Money is not going to the kids, it's going to a business."

It's an issue, and a vote, that will affect thousands across Lafayette Parish.

Both companies, Charter Schools USA and National Heritage Academies, already have schools in the state. One received a failing grade of an "F", the other four have yet to receive grades.



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