A school board candidate takes exception to the chamber's Common Vision initiative.
"LaPesc believes that high quality charter schools are an important alternative for parents in our district. LPSS should consider charter school applications that meet high-quality charter school standards... LaPESC does not take positions on individual charter schools applications." - Charter Policy of Lafayette Public Education Stakeholders Council, May 2013
"We support school choice for parents, including initiatives that allow for the creation of high functioning charter schools." - Lafayette Chamber of Commerce legislative priorities, 2014
|Kathleen Schott Espinoza|
These loosely articulated priorities laid the groundwork for Lafayette's existing for-profit charter schools and subsequent deficit in the Lafayette Parish School System's budget. In October of 2013 LaPESC representatives urged the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in Baton Rouge to vote to approve five charter schools in Lafayette. Today ten million dollars that could have funded our Turnaround Plan are instead flowing through our system and into for-profit education companies in Michigan and Florida to duplicate services of Lafayette's public school system.
Any vision for public education in Lafayette Parish demands a deeper understanding of the fiscal realities that certain charter schools present for our public system. Schools that provide no transportation, no broad spectrum of special and regular education services and no local boards that convene regularly in Lafayette do not meet the standards we hold for our fully public schools. Where did our ten million dollars go? Every single element of the Chamber's school system initiative, Common Vision, hinges on our ability to pay for it with limited tax dollars. For the Chamber of Commerce and its sister organization, LaPESC, to take such a blanket approval of charter schools is inadequate. The people of Lafayette Parish deserve better. The facts are not all charter schools - whether you consider them high quality or not - make for good fiscal decisions. The children, the parents and the employees of the Lafayette Parish School System are paying the consequences of this passivity.
A handful of bills failed in Baton Rouge this legislative session, bills directly related to the financial injustices delivered to the taxpayers of Lafayette Parish by the for-profit charter model. Where were the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and LaPESC then? Why were they not fighting for adequate funding for the Lafayette Parish School System? The proliferation of for-profit charter schools in Lafayette will inevitably mean the closing of existing, publicly owned neighborhood schools. I, for one, will hold my signature from the Common Vision until the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and LaPESC share a vision that speaks to the fiscal integrity of the Lafayette Parish School System and responds to the new reality of a chartered landscape that threatens the equity and efficiency of public education for all of our children. Kathleen Schott Espinoza, parent, educator and graduate of Lafayette Parish Public Schools
[Editor's Note: Espinoza is a candidate for the District 6 seat on the Lafayette Parish School Board.]