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Lycée parents complain to BESE about pricey fees for tutoring

The school offers an immersion program in French. photo: The Lens

Parents complained today before the state’s top education board that they had to pay a $250 application fee to enroll their children in Lycée Français de la Nouvelle Orleans, the French-immersion charter school, and upwards of $150 a week to get them extra tutoring.

They also complained to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that the school had not done enough to recruit and retain minority students.

Parents deemed the enrollment fee unnecessary and said that the school had promised it would provide tutoring free of charge. Lycée board president Jean Montes said the school offered its students summer tutoring free of charge, but didn’t directly answer State Superintendent John White’s inquiry into whether the school charged for after-school tutoring.

With Montes’ and the parents making contradictory statements, White told the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that his staff would look into the issue.

The issue of charter schools charging fees for student services isn’t new. In a 2011 survey by The Lens, at least 30 of 44 schools, most of them chartered, indicated that they charge parents some type of fee for enrichment, supplemental course material or other services.

Critics of fees say they deter lower-income families from applying for admission. School leaders say the fees make it possible to offer an educational experience that goes above and beyond the state’s basic program at a time of stagnant funding and rising costs.

The state Department of Education has said that, while it is illegal for a public school to charge an attendance fee of any kind, fees for supplemental services are acceptable, as long as the school makes clear to parents that payment is voluntary.

During the proceedings on Tuesday,  Lycée parents Nadia Casimir and Dana Connelly both spoke of paying fees that they felt were pricey.

Casimir said she was told that French tutoring for her child would cost $150 a week.

Montes said that the summer French tutoring program was free. “There’s a disconnect here,” he said. When White asked if Lycée charged parents for after-school tutoring, Montes said only that the after-school program offers more than what the traditional school day offers.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members Lottie Beebe and Carolyn Hill raised other issues, including whether Lycée’s enrollment is sufficiently diverse. White praised the school for conducting an outreach campaign and said that the school’s percentage of minority students was increasing.

Board president Penny Dastugue said White agreed to look into the school’s practices and report back. The state board will raise the issue again at its meeting as a Committee of the Whole with the Recovery School District.

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About Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her reporting on charter school transparency and governance. In 2012, she was part of a team that received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for their work following a New Orleans family's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Edna Karr Secondary School in Algiers, and she obtained her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. She can be reached at (504) 575-8191.

  • Louie

    This school continues to break the law! The Feds should audit them! They are mishandling federal funds, breaking their charter, and are heavy in racism. This school should be closed! New Orleans needs public schools who will help the lower and middle class children stay in school, to succeed and go onto college or trade schools. New Orleans is so heavy in crime– daily children are killing others and are into the drug trade. We have got to immediately change how this area is handling education! New Orleans does not need a public racist white school that promotes frustration in low income minority children.

  • kally

    Louie, you are correct and the crime is that BESE has known this and covered it up for over a year!!! My question to the lens is why BESE closes its eyes to this school over all the other charters. BESE needs to be called on its failure to oversee and this school needs to lose it start up funding period. Second year in a row using start up money to fund its private preschool. This is a federal crime. Claiming a false patnership with a central city daycare= fraudulant charter application. 40 black chidren an 300 white children does not pass the smell test. Did not pass the smell test last year either, why the cover up?

  • William Keleher

    Louie, I am sure substantive evidence of your claims of racism would be welcome by everyone. Is this something you can prove, or just an accusation you like to throw around to get attention?

  • Metrymom

    Louie cannot provide evidence because it’s all a bunch of nonsense. He and his sidekick “Kally” troll message boards regarding Lycee Francais and spread outrageous misinformation because they view the school as competition for one of the other immersion schools.