Local education group targets charter school

by Walter Pierce

Power of Public Education Lafayette accuses Acadiana Renaissance Charter in Youngsville of breach of contract, urges state superintendent to take action.

Acadiana Renaissance Charter Academy

Power of Public Education, a Lafayette-based group that advocates on behalf of the parish’s public school system, is urging state Superintendent John White (see letter below) to take action against Acadiana Renaissance Charter Academy in Youngsville for failing to meet enrollment guidelines set in its charter with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. A Type-2 charter approved by BESE two years ago after the Lafayette Parish School Board denied it a Type-1 charter, ARCA is contractually obligated to enroll 66.9 percent at-risk students, according to PPEL, which says the charter school's actual enrollment of students on free or reduced lunch is only 33 percent.

“We understand that Louisiana Charter Law was justified by its promise to help close achievement gaps among at-risk children. But we also recognize that how charter schools are authorized and funded poses a real risk of redistributing limited tax dollars in a way that does just the opposite,” says Toby Daspit, president of PPEL, in a release highlighting the letter to White. “We are concerned that a precedent has been set that allows for-profit charter school management companies to locate in and serve primarily affluent communities while disregarding the fundamental mission for charter school existence: to serve at-risk children and close achievement gaps.”

One of the other three charters operating in Lafayette is located in an affluent Traditional Neighborhood Development in north Lafayette. The charter schools operating in the parish are Type-2 charters, meaning they got permission to open from BESE, not the local school board, and are therefore not subject to Lafayette Parish School System oversight. Acadiana Renaissance is operated by Charter Schools USA, a for-profit education company.

Among the actions requested of White by PPEL:

● Enforce the contractual requirement of Acadiana Renaissance Charter Academy to serve the requisite percentage of at-risk students.

● Improve the charter school application, review, recommendation and authorization process to ensure that charter school applicants have a plan to meet their contractual requirements from the outset.

● Determine if this is a recurring problem in Louisiana charter schools that are required by contract to serve at-risk students.