John White Opts to Defer Charter Authorizer Approval…?
In March 2012, the Louisiana legislature passed Act 2, which includes language allowing for the authorization of “local charter authorizers” (LCAs)– organizations that are able to authorize charter schools in Louisiana and that are able to bypass local school boards in doing so. The charters authorized by LCAs are called Type 1B charters.
A November 2015 Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) board document includes the following summary of Type 1B charters:
Act 2 of the 2012 Legislative Session provided BESE the authority to certify eligible organizations (post-secondary institutions, state agencies, or a nonprofit corporation with an educational mission or established by the governing authority of a parish or municipality) to serve as a Local Charter Authorizer (LCA). LCAs possess the authority to authorize charter schools similar to BESE and local districts.
LCAs are uniquely positioned in Louisiana to leverage their local knowledge, expertise, and support to authorize and oversee new high-quality charter schools that can create new educational options for students within their communities. Charter schools authorized by LCAs are known as Type 1B charter schools. Type 1B charter schools act as a local education agency…. …
Each LCA is certified to authorize charter schools within at least one Regional Labor Market Area, as defined by the Louisiana Workforce Commission. At any time, no more than five LCAs may be certified to operate in a specific Regional Labor Market Area.
(Note: The term “high quality charter school” is used nationwide by those desiring to proliferate charter schools. It is more of a marketing slogan than an empirically-justified reality.)
On December 02 and 03, 2015, the La. BESE board had on its agenda what appeared to be a fast-tracking LCA approval for Southern University and New Schools for Baton Rouge, with the goal of approving these LCAs in the final BESE meeting before Governor-Elect John Bel Edwards officially assumes office, on January 11, 2016.
(Note in the document linked above that the Louisiana Department of Education, LDOE, gave Southern University the green light even though an independent review demonstrated that the Southern University application has numerous holes and reasons for concern. LDOE states that it promotes Southern’s approval based on Southern’s “growth through the application process.” In other words, Southern University did well on paper, and that is apparently enough for LDOE.)
In his first public speech since his November 21, 2015, election, Governor-Elect John Bel Edwards made it clear that he prefers for local school boards to have authority to decide upon opening charters in their districts. Whereas BESE’s approval of LCAs in the December 2015 meeting would be legal, it sends the message that BESE and Louisiana state superintendent John White intentionally purpose to act contrary to the governor-elect’s preferences and to do so before the governor-elect becomes governor.
However, as of November 29, 2015, the Type 1B link above includes the following:
Local Charter Authorizer Application Recommendations
The Department recommends that BESE defer until January 2016 the certification of the following organizations to serve as a Local Charter Authorizer in the identified Regional Labor Market Areas, with certification conditional upon each Local Charter Authorizer entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department that outlines the shared roles and responsibilities between the Department and Local Charter Authorizer for authorizing charter schools in each Regional Labor Market Area.
Based upon the above deferral, “entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)” reads like the reason for deferring LCA approval originally slated for December 2015. However, entering into a MOU was already part of the process (see this “approving these LCAs” link).
On November 28, 2015, White sent the following email to BESE members at 5:42 p.m.:
As you know, in 2012 the Legislature wrote into the law a “local charter authorizer” function, whereby local civic institutions would take on the responsibility for approving and overseeing a select number of charter schools in given regions of the state. Per the law, the Department issued a request for proposals earlier this year. Two institutions, Southern University and New Schools for Baton Rouge, applied so as to expand school choices in their regions.
Having spoken with the leaders of both organizations and with community leaders, I think the two proposals would benefit from more dialogue before being brought to the board. I have thus requested that they be deferred until the board’s January meeting.
Those familiar with White’s sneaky mode of operating know full well that he does not slow down his own traditional public school replacement agenda merely for the sake of additional discussion.
My educated guess on the matter is that White is feeling the heat from those with greater authority over his future than “both organizations and with community leaders”– say, legislators and one governor-elect.
Moreover, I expect the concept of the local-school-board-bypassing LCA to be revisited in the 2016 legislative session.
White at a 2013 function in which New Schools for Baton Rouge participated. He is pictured with guest of honor, businessman Lane Grigsby, who funneled substantial cash into the 2011 BESE elections to create the BESE board willing to approve White as state superintendent. Grigsby’s Empower Louisiana PAC was the funnel for over $2 million from billionaires Bloomberg, the Broads, the Waltons, and the Arnolds, for the 2015 BESE elections. Ironically, Grigsby could not buy the most important 2015 La. race– the one for governor.