A state district court judge ruled Monday that a lawsuit brought forth by the St. Helena Parish Association of Educators (SHPAE) and the St. Helena Parish School Board can proceed to trial.
“We applaud Judge Fields on this decision,” says Plaintiff Attorney Brian F. Blackwell of Blackwell & Associates. “The state made an illegal move by depriving the school district of much needed dollars. Drastic action needs to be taken in order to ensure that this money is restored.”
Earlier this year, four St. Helena Parish teachers sued the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Superintendent of Education, claiming the state illegally included parish sales tax revenue in figuring the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) formula - the primary mechanism through which the state funds public education. In April, the St. Helena Parish Association of Educators and the St. Helena Parish School Board joined the suit.
“The suit alleges that between 2007 and 2011, the formula adopted by BESE effectively reduced the state’s funding obligation to the St. Helena Parish School Board by more than $2.4 million,” says Blackwell. “Statewide, the suit alleges that the same formula effectively reduced the state’s funding obligation under the MFP by nearly $3 billion during the same period of time.”
Both BESE and the superintendent claimed that suit should be dismissed for a variety of reasons, but Judge Wilson Fields disagreed. Following Monday’s ruling, Mr. Blackwell said that he intends to vigorously pursue action.
“We intend to gather all of the evidence necessary to win this very important case as expeditiously as possible,” he said.