Acadia joins MFP lawsuit

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The Acadia Parish School Board became the next school board to join the latest education suit against the state Monday night at its January meeting.

“Let me answer some of your questions off the top because I just did this four days ago for St. Landry,” said Gerard Caswell, board attorney.

Caswell went on to explain how the suit challenges the use of the 2011-12 formula this school year while excluding the 2.75 percent “growth factor.” The suit is currently alleging a class action lawsuit on behalf of all school districts in the state. Currently, about 30 districts have signed on as plaintiffs in the suit. The status of class action will be decided potentially as early as this week.

Caswell presented the board with a resolution to be adopted authorizing the joining of the suit and contingency fee and power of attorney contracts with the law firms representing the plaintiffs. The law firms representing the plaintiffs are Hammonds, Sills, Adkins and Gruice LLP, Kean Miller LLP and Blackwell and Associates.

Put forth by the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board, the lawsuit challenges Louisiana’s per-pupil school aid formula, the Minimum Foundation Program.

School districts like St. Landry, Vermilion and Jeff Davis parishes have already joined the suit. The lawsuit’s co-plaintiffs include the Louisiana Association of Educators and its local affiliates.

If the suit goes the school boards’ way it would mean an additional $327 per Louisiana public school student, or approximately $200 million statewide, for the 2012-13 school year.

The downside for school districts is that even if they are victorious, the Legislature would have to appropriate the judgment, meaning local districts may not see the money.

The lawsuit stemmed from a 2013 ruling by the Louisiana Supreme Court that struck down the way the state’s expanded voucher program was financed. The court also threw out the state’s school aid plan for the 2012-13 year, saying it had been approved illegally, in part because it was not filed in a timely fashion with the Legislature.

The lawsuit was filed in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge on June 28, 2013. 

That would translate to per-pupil funding rising from $3,855 to $4,182 for this school year, according to an attorney for the plaintiffs, Brian Blackwell.

The MFP combines state and local revenue under a formula set by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and approved by the Legislature. It is designed to make sure every student receives at least a “minimum foundation of education.”