On Monday, an appeals court in Louisiana will hear arguments in a case that could cause 13,000 students to lose their public schools. As a parent of a student who attended one of Louisiana’s charter schools that is in danger, this lawsuit is personal. It’s personal to 13,000 Louisiana students and their families.
In 2014, the Louisiana teachers union and Iberville Parish School Board filed suit against the state, claiming that the state’s type 2 public charter schools are unconstitutional and should be defunded. If the teachers union and school board were to win, 13,000 students would be forced out of the schools that work for them. It was a thinly veiled attempt to take away parents’ rights and put individual student education decisions in the hands of union bosses, not to mention a waste of the state’s time and resources that should be used to train and equip our teachers to be the best in the country.
Every child, regardless of their zip code or how much money their parents make, deserves the best start in life. That begins with a parent’s ability to choose the school where their child will thrive — whether that’s in a traditional brick and mortar school, public virtual school, or public charter school. Every child deserves the right to a high quality public education and it is the state’s constitutional duty to provide it. Yet, this frivolous lawsuit jeopardizes our children’s public schools and their chances for success if they are forced to return to the schools that previously failed them.
Thankfully, last May, the trial court ruled in favor of Louisiana parents and students with a clear message: charter schools are public schools and the current funding mechanism established by the state can continue. Simply put, these schools are entitled to public funding.
As parents, we were thrilled with the trial court’s decision because it meant our students would be able to stay in the schools that work for them – and it meant that we, not union bosses or bureaucrats, were trusted to make important educational decisions for our children. Many parents and students breathed a collective sigh of relief that their education would be protected.
However, in spite of the court’s decision, which allows over 13,000 Louisiana children access to the school that best meets their learning needs, the teachers union and school board have pushed forward with an appeal in their continued fight to diminish options in public education in the state and take away parents’ rights.
Though the union would prefer it, there are critical voices that can’t be ignored as we prepare for the upcoming trial: parents and students who need these public charter schools. Parents know their children better than anyone else and should be trusted to make decisions about their education.
That’s why it was an easy decision for me to join with PublicSchoolOptions.org and a fellow Louisiana charter school parent to petition the court to file an amicus brief to make sure parent and student voices are heard – which the union has fought to keep out of the proceedings – and asserts the constitutional guarantees and rights of students attending public charter schools.
On Monday, families of public charter school students will be back in the courtroom, making sure our voices are heard, albeit from the sidelines. These are our children and we as parents are responsible for their success, not the teachers’ union or bureaucratic school districts. We hope and pray that the court will once again side with parents and students, the real stakeholders of public schools.
Christin White-Kaiser is a parent of students in Louisiana charter schools and national board member of PublicSchoolOptions.org, a parent-led advocacy organization that supports and defends parents’ rights to access the best public school options for their children.