Schools to lose $422,000 to charter school funding

Published 7:33 am Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Bogalusa School Board learned Monday the district’s state funding will be decreased by nearly a half million dollars, with that money going to the Northshore Charter School.

Director of Finance Deloris Walker, speaking to the board at Monday’s committee meeting, said she had received the Minimum Foundation Program numbers from State Superintendent John White regarding funding of the charter school set to open for the 2013-14 school year.

“The Northshore Charter School will be receiving from our district, out of our lawful funds — our sales taxes and our property taxes — $395,000 out of our MFP money along with $3,099 on the local share and $23,000 due to the scholarships (vouchers), where students went out of our district to a private school,” Walker said.

Walker said the district started with $14,310,050 in MFP funding, and once the state subtracted those deductions the MFP went down to $13,816,000.

“A total of $422,000 taken away from our district to fund NCS,” she said.

Walker said she spoke with the state finance director and learned the charter school will receive $2,182,000 in funding this coming year.

“They also took $178,000 from Washington Parish schools,” she said, a lower amount than Bogalusa because the city system gets a larger share of sales taxes in the city, and Bogalusa also has a higher millage.

Walker said she asked the state finance director what would happen if students didn’t attend the charter school. She said she was told the state will not take the money back, and she is still unclear if local money would be returned to the city school system and is awaiting more information.

“I just needed to inform the board that we’re looking at almost $400,000 in reductions in funding for next year,” Walker said. “We’ve seriously got to look at the budget to make sure that we will be able to fund the system.”

Acting Superintendent Willie “Toni” Breaux asked what would happen if a student started at the charter school but quit after a week or so returned to the city schools.

“Where does the money go?” she asked.

Walker said the state does two counts per year, on Oct. 1 and Feb. 1.

“From my understanding, on the state part, they’re not going to touch their money. They might come back and give us additional money,” she added. “They’ll let them keep theirs and give us the proportional additional state money.”

In addition to the financial end, board members had other questions regarding the charter school.

Member Calvin Hymel said, “It’s hard to go to a school when you don’t know where you’re going,” a reference to the charter school not having a building yet.

According to both Breaux and Walker, no one from the charter school has contacted anyone from the school system.

“They’re supposed to contact us, and they have not,” Breaux said. “They have not talked to us about a building, about food, about transportation… nothing.”

Board member Curtis Creel asked about whether the charter board meetings are subject to the sunshine law.

“Since their board is appointed, are their meetings public?” he asked legal counsel Dale Branch, who said because they’re using taxpayer money, he believes they are subject to the open meetings law.

“Because your board is appointed, it doesn’t exempt you from the sunshine law,” Branch said.

Creel said he is curious as to why none of the school’s meetings “are posted as public… or never posted period.” Branch said he would check on that.

Walker asked Branch about laws pertaining to use of school property in case the charter school asks for one of the BCS buildings. He explained that it is part of the state statute that says if the school system in a locality has a vacant building they have to offer it to (the charter school) first.

“It doesn’t mean you have to give it to them,” he said. “You have to set a fair rent for them.”

In other business:

• Phlesher Mingo, supervisor of Welfare, Attendance and Transportation, reported on an upcoming bullying training that all school employees are required to attend, including board members.

• Elementary Curriculum and Instruction Director Debbie Jenkins told the board that today would be a busy day in the school system, with fourth, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th grade student taking tests, including Phase 1 and Phase 2 LEAP tests for fourth- and eighth-graders, and 11th-graders taking the ACT.

• Joannie Miller, supervisor of Child Nutrition Programs, talked about a new bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate, the Sensible School Lunch Act, which would allow more flexibility in portions of proteins and grains in school lunches, as well as remove the current mandate to keep school lunch prices at the federal guideline level.

“We will no longer be required to do that as long as we operate in the black,” she said.

The board is set to vote a number of items, as well as recognize the Students of the Year on Tuesday at the regular board meeting.