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In a Big Win for Charter School Advocates, Louisiana Supreme Court Rules Charter Funding Is Constitutional

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Louisiana's high court has ruled that the way many of the state's charter schools are funded is indeed constitutional.

The Louisiana Supreme Court's decision reverses that of a state appeals court. And it's a big win for charter school advocates who have been fighting back similar legal challenges in other states.

At stake in the Louisiana case was funding for over 40 charter schools in a state that has leaned heavily on the charter school idea to turn around failing schools.

The central question in Iberville Parish School Board v. Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was whether schools granted charters by the state board, rather than a local school district—or parish—were eligible to receive money allocated to local school systems.

The lawsuit spearheaded by the Louisiana Association of Educators argued that it was unconstitutional to fund schools overseen by the state with money intended for local parishes, regardless of where the schools themselves are located.

That argument was initially rejected by a Louisiana district judge in 2015, before being overturned a year ago by a state appeals court.

As I reported then, although charter laws have been passed in the vast majority of states, how the schools are funded has become a potential Achilles' heel in some areas.

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. But another lawsuit seeks to strip them of their funding again.

A lawsuit filed in Mississippi in 2016 also claimed that it's unconstitutional to require local districts to share property tax money with schools they don't run. A judge ruled that the funding scheme was legal in February.

But all that has been enough to spook charter school advocates, and they've been taking the threat seriously. In particular, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools launched a legal action and defense fund last year to deal precisely with this type of litigation.

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