Head of charter school association criticizes Cedric Richmond for voting against expanded charter funding

The head of Louisiana’s charter school association has criticized U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond’s opposition to a bill that would funnel more than $300 million in federal grants to charters around the country.

The bill, dubbed the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support May 9. It has been referred to a Senate committee; a similar bill also has been introduced in the Senate.

Under the House bill, state education agencies, governors, state charter boards and charter-school support organizations could act as conduits for federal grants, passing the money on to schools.

The bill would would prioritize grants in states such as Louisiana, which don’t limit the number of charter schools and allow entities other than local school districts to authorize charters.

Caroline Roemer Shirley, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, criticized Richmond for voting against the bill when his district has so many charter schools. She cited a report, released Thursday by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, that ranked New Orleans third on a list of 25 charter-dominated congressional districts around the country.

“I was disappointed,” Shirley said. “We need to get him in some classrooms, and help him understand what we are doing.”

She said her organization doesn’t plan to apply for the new funds. It, along with other nonprofits such as New Schools for New Orleans, already can apply for such grants because it works with multiple schools.

Richmond, D-New Orleans, was in the minority — and the only congressman in the state — in voting against the bill.

In response to Shirley’s comments, his office issued a statement saying the bill fell short in several areas.

Schools operate better, according to Richmond, “when they are accountable to the parents and taxpayers, ensure equal access to all of our children, and operate in a manner that is transparent.

“We must remember that charter schools are public schools and we must hold them to equal standards.”

Democrats offered several amendments requiring more accountability of charters, such as asking them to foster community involvement and requiring them to publish information about suspensions and expulsions.

Shirley herself has advocated for charter school accountability and criticized schools that fall short. Her organization offers governance training to charter school boards.

Those efforts haven’t completely stopped schools from breaking state Open Meetings laws, however.

Some New Orleans charters have also come under fire for their discipline and enrollment policies.

Critics say the discipline codes at one New Orleans charter school group, Collegiate Academies, lead to more students being kicked out of school. The country’s two leading teacher unions have also alleged that some schools discriminate against black students because they don’t participate in the city’s common enrollment process.

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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.

  • John

    Roemer’s comment that, “We need to get him in some classrooms, and help him understand what we are doing” cracks me up. Cedric is well aware of what has happened in New Orleans since Katrina. He clearly recognizes the privatization push that has happened in New orleans and does not want a repeat in the rest of the country. His response about charter schools being PUBLIC schools and the need for public accountability and transparency directly speaks to the problems we are facing in New Orleans. It is irresponsible to create new laws which open up even more private organizations to a cut of the money which should be going to help educate students. The notion propegated by big businesses such as the Walton K12 initiative that a student can only recieve a quality education if the school is a charter is sickening. And people like Roemer are right there to spread that manure with one hand while they pocket a 6 figure salary with the other, generously provided by taxpayer dollars.

  • 6th Ward Transplant

    Well said. I am glad my Congressman voted against further privatization in New Orleans.

  • will_k2

    C-note Richmond’s explanation of his opposition is amusing as always. In what way does blocking grants to charter schools ensure that they are “accountable to the parents and taxpayers, ensure equal access to all of our children, and operate in a manner that is transparent?” It makes zero sense.

    Pretty much anytime you want to understand what C-note’s real motivations are, just look to the traditional sources of New Orleans corruption. In this case, that would be the Orleans Parish School Board. When school funding got split between many charter boards, it pretty much ended the gravy train at the OPSB. Clearly C-note can think of plenty of good reason$ why school funding should be re-consolidated into a big slop bucket governed by that wildly dysfunctional organization.

  • Lee Barrios

    That isn’t what he said and when the full truth about the OPSB/Cecil Picard et al pre-Katrina comes out you will be eating crow.

    Of course C. Roemer is upset. Charters are her bread and butter and her brother’s position n BESE insures it. Kudos to Richmond for seeking out/discovering and listening to the truth.

  • nickelndime

    CAROLINE CRITICIZES CEDRIC: Well, that’s a laugh! You want wildly dysfunctional? Look at sitting OPSB member and founder of the “nonprofit” New Schools for New Orleans, presenting Sarah Usdin! Mr. Kingsland kept Ms. Usdin’s chair warm over at NSNO while she warmed a new chair on the OPSB. She has pretty much split that group up so that it has been rendered useless. Nobody can actually fire anybody because they can’t get five votes together, and now the group is looking at a potential candidate from Bermuda! What’s wrong with Haiti?

  • jazz_nola

    Congressman Richmond is on point regarding his opposition to sending more money to the so called “charter schools” that operate like private entities using public monies while occupying public buildings. Roemer- Shirley, as head of the Louisiana Charter Association should be concerned about making charter schools in Louisiana successful presently they are the worst schools in Louisiana. There are also other serious concerns about charter schools such as; lack of transparency, self appointed boards that run charter schools who ignoring community concerns and participation, fiscal irresponsibility and mismanagement, refusal to accept neighborhood students while cherry picking the best students and six digit salaries of charter school administrators with less than 300 students that exceed the salaries of state education superintendents with more 500,000 students.

  • nickelndime

    Bring it home “jazz nola.” You have my complete attention. You are on point. And, allow me to add that state-generated board pools, such as the ones developed by Caroline’s nonprofit, are no way to encourage community participation and grassroots involvement in these charter schools. This is exactly why these “local” (yeah, right!) charter boards are populated with non- community resume’ builders (attorneys, etc.), rather than parents, etc.