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Louisiana Court: State-Approved Charter Schools Unconstitutionally Funded

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A Louisiana state appeals court has ruled that the way several charter schools in the state are funded is unconstitutional, according to the Associated Press. 

At issue in the case, Iberville Parish School Board v. Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, is funding for schools that were granted charters by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, rather than a local district—or parish—but are funded with money allocated to local school systems.

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Although charter laws have been passed in 43 states and the District of Columbia, how the schools are funded has turned out to be somewhat of an Achilles' heel in some states. Washington state's high court ruled in 2015 that the way charters were funded was unconstitutional. Lawmakers have since revised the funding system there, and charters are back up-and-running in the state. 

A lawsuit filed in Mississippi in July also claims that it's unconstitutional to require local districts to share property tax money with schools they don't run.

In response to lawsuits such as these, the nation's largest charter advocacy group, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, recently launched a legal action and defense fund.

In Louisiana, local K-12 officials as well as the Louisiana Association of Educators, a state teachers' union, argued it was unconstitutional to fund schools run outside local school systems with money meant to go local parishes.

That argument was initially rejected by a Louisiana district judge in 2015, before being overturned Monday by the state appeals court. At stake is about $80 million in funding for over 30 charter schools statewide. 

"This is a significant victory in defending the right of every child in Louisiana to attend a quality public school," said LAE President Debbie Meaux in a statement. "It is crucial for the state to adequately fund the institutions where the vast majority of Louisiana's students learn, and a majority of Louisiana's students learn in public school classrooms."

The Associated Press reports that the Louisiana case is expected to go to the state's supreme court.

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