New Resource for Understanding Public Education Funding in New Orleans

March 18, 2020

Like the rest of the community, our attention is focused on the threats posed by COVID-19. At the same time, our work concentrates on issues that are critical to the long-term welfare of our city and our mission compels us to continue it. We are therefore publishing a report today that we completed just as the health crisis was revealing itself locally.

This is a soft release, which takes into account the many priority concerns right now. BGR provides this report in order to make its essential information available to those who need it most. When we are beyond the immediacy of this crisis, we look forward to inviting the community, policymakers and members of the media to talk with us about the new report so we can optimize its value to the public dialogue and its potential to strengthen New Orleans’ public education funding framework.

Learning Curve: A Guide to Navigating School Funding in New Orleans’ Unified District presents a comprehensive explanation of K-12 public education funding in New Orleans less than two years since the unification of the city’s school system under the control of the Orleans Parish School Board and its district, NOLA Public Schools.

The report is intended to serve as a guide for state and local policymakers, charter school administrators and board members, education advocates, interested parents and other members of the public who are working to ensure fair funding allocations for charter schools and proper funding of NOLA Public Schools’ system management functions. The strength of the funding framework is integral to achieving those goals. This is because laws and policies at the state, local and federal levels control the allocation of almost all school funding in New Orleans. By contrast, a traditional public school district has broad latitude to allocate revenue across its direct-run schools and central office functions.

BGR’s report details more than $650 million in K-12 public education revenue from local, state, federal and other sources. Nearly nine of every 10 public education dollars in New Orleans go to charter schools. NOLA Public Schools receives the other one-tenth for system management and debt service and facilities obligations. Learning Curve finds that, as New Orleans’ school system has evolved since Hurricane Katrina, legislators, education officials and other stakeholders have improved funding policies to address the needs of autonomous schools and ensure appropriate funding for centralized system management. Today’s funding framework is generally effective in serving students’ varying educational needs. However, BGR’s report also finds a number of opportunities to make New Orleans education funding more transparent, stable and consistent, and better aligned to the needs of schools, their students and the system as a whole. It makes recommendations for addressing challenges and leveraging opportunities.