Lafayette Public School System Could Lose $17M To Charter

LAFAYETTE, LA (AP) — School officials say the Lafayette Parish School System could lose up to $17 million over the next two school years as the three charter schools in the parish expand and a new charter school opens in August.

         The Advocate’s Marsha Sills reports the potential flight of funds would come from the loss of students whose parents opt to enroll them in the charter schools.

         The loss of per student funding for the district contributed to a $20 million shortfall last year as the School Board prepared to balance the budget for the current school year. The charter schools weren't the sole reason for the shortfall. School officials also pointed to rising costs associated with retirement and benefits and other state mandates.

         But the charter schools appear to be the main target.

         "The imposition of state-approved charter schools in Lafayette Parish and the resulting diversion of local funds to those schools pose a significant financial challenge to the Lafayette Parish School System. Reductions in expenditures will be needed to balance the budget in future fiscal years," Finance Director Matt Dugas and Chief Financial Officer Billy Guidry wrote in a letter submitted as part of an audit of the school system for the 2013-14 fiscal year that ended June 30.

         The School Board rejected the initial applications for the charter schools in 2013. However, the schools received approval from the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

         Guidry said it's been difficult to pinpoint the exact financial impact on the public school system because he is awaiting official enrollment counts and a breakdown of how many students enrolled in the charter schools were previously Lafayette Parish school students. The charter schools are able to enroll students from outside of Lafayette Parish.

         The impact of four charter schools open in the parish in the upcoming 2015-16 school year was estimated at $9 million and at $8 million the following school year, Guidry said.

         The charter schools also are eligible to receive a portion of local tax revenues for each Lafayette Parish student enrolled on their campuses.

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