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New Orleans Public Schools Holds Budget Steady, Approves Funds For Mary D. Coghill Elementary School

Jess Clark
WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio
Students from Mary D. Coghill protest the district's decision to oust charter management and run the school directly.

New Orleans Public Schools will likely face budget shortfalls in the coming years due to COVID-19, but for now schools won’t see any significant changes in spending.

The Orleans Parish School Board approved the district’s 2020-2021 operating budget at their monthly board meeting Thursday night following a public comment period.

Chief Financial Officer Diane Allison said no significant changes were made to this year’s budget in an effort to provide stability for schools and “mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 on our schools.”

One significant line item was the use of nearly $445,000 from the district’s system-wide reserves to cover additional operating costs for Mary D. Coghill Elementary School. This year, the district will directly operate the school and will cease to be an all-charter system.

“Coghill Elementary School, like schools across the city and beyond, faces exceptional circumstances given the impact of COVID-19,” Allison said. “These exceptional circumstances mean additional challenges for schools.”

These include reduced per-pupil funding due to a significant decline in sales tax revenue, lost instructional time during the spring of 2020, the potential loss of instructional time during the 2020-21 school year, and costs associated with distance learning and increased health and safety standards.

Allison said 402 students are currently enrolled at Coghill and that they’ve budgeted for around 410 students.

She said the school did not obtain any funding from the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which earmarked $13 billion for public schools.

“It also doesn’t include any beginning fund balance that the prior operator would have left at the school,” Allison said. “It is basically a worst-case scenario.”

The district assumed control of the F-rated school on July 1 after Lewis decided not to renew its charter contract. Coghill also received warning alleging financial mismanagement and failure to provide special education services.

The school and its operator, the Better Choice Foundation, are currently facing charges of nepotism.

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