Delta Charter ordered to cut enrollment after judge says school violated court order

Published 12:40 am Saturday, June 10, 2017

By Christian Coffman

NATCHEZ — A federal court ruled Wednesday Delta Charter School was in violation of an earlier court order and as a result will force significant reductions in the school’s enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year.

The Concordia Parish School District filed a motion with the court in June 2014 alleging the Ferriday charter school was operating in violation of its consent order, which allowed the school to open in 2013 as a Type II charter school in Louisiana.

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In his ruling, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Dee Drell said Delta Charter School violated the order, which outlined Delta Charter’s obligation to restrict its enrollment and ensure its student body mimics the racial diversity of the parish within a 10-percent margin of compliance.

“Delta has clearly not complied with the consent order to say the least, and it has attempted to move rapidly forward with its own agenda while only winking at its court-ordered obligations. This will stop.” Drell wrote for the court.

The restrictions were placed in order to control the effect the charter school had on the Concordia Parish School District, which operates under a court-ordered desegregation plan.

Louisiana Department of Education enrollment numbers from February 2017 show the Concordia Parish School District had 3,385 students, of which 54 percent (1,844 students) is comprised of minority students. The same numbers show Delta Charter School had 502 students, of which 20 percent (104 students) are minority students.

The Concordia Parish school district alleged Delta Charter’s failure to adhere to the obligations of the consent order harmed the parish financially by diverting Minimum Foundation Program funds associated with excess enrollment away from the public schools.

Delta Charter denied the allegations, asserting that the consent order was a summary of what the school believed its opening enrollment would be for the 2012-2013 school year. Delta Charter disputed the assertion that the consent order limited its enrollment to a specific number. Delta Charter also denied that it had impeded the ability of the Concordia Parish School District to meet its obligations under its desegregation order.

In the ruling for the school district, Drell said the court recognized that “maintaining a racial balance in a school setting is a delicate balance, so it was found to be incumbent upon Delta to seek authorization from the court when proposed changes or operations which may impact the fulfillment of its obligations are sought to its enrollment.”

Drells wrote that a Delta Charter official testified that he thought all the school needed to do to increase enrollment was to get authority from the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to increase enrollment.

Drell wrote this assertion “was clearly wrong in view of the court’s original consent order.” Furthermore, Drell said the court concluded that Delta was also not in compliance with provisions of Louisiana’s charter school law.

The court ordered a list of remedies for Delta Charter to take into effect for the 2017-18 school year.

The court ordered Delta Charter to limit enrollment to 350 students from Concordia Parish. Additional students may be added from other parishes, so long as the other parish school districts are not under current desegregation orders, unless permission is granted from the court after a contradictory hearing.

The court also ordered Delta Charter to create a diversity committee which will be in charge of increasing minority enrollment.

Delta Charter must establish the committee within 60 days of Wednesday’s ruling. The committee must be comprised of at least 50 percent minority community leaders and at least 50 percent of the membership shall be black. Further, Delta Charter is to provide names and races of each committee member to the court within 65 days.

The committee is to meet at least once a month beginning August, 2017.

A special master will be appointed by the court and will be responsible for ensuring Delta fosters the diversity committee and that new procedures are met.

These new procedures include that it meets regularly, that Delta Charter implements the committee’s recommendations, creates a waiting list for admission, that parties and the court are given quarterly reports and eliminate disparate treatment and impact on minority students.

The special master will report to the court on January, 2018 on the progress of Delta.