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Response to Louisiana Department of Education's request to amend Charter School Program application
Letter approving Louisiana Department of Education's request for waivers to meet needs of students displaced by hurricanes

October 15, 2005

Honorable Cecil J. Picard
Superintendent of Education
State Department of Education
626 North 4th Street, 12th Floor
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9064

Dear Superintendent Picard:

I am writing in response to the waiver request that you submitted to the Department pursuant to the Louisiana Department of Education (LDE) grant under the U.S. Department of Education's Charter Schools Program (CSP). We are treating your request as a request to amend LDE's approved CSP grant application.

Under Section 5204(e) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), the Secretary may grant a waiver if: (1) the waiver is requested in an approved application for funds under the CSP; and (2) the Secretary determines that granting the waiver will promote the purposes of the CSP. The LDE is a grantee under the CSP and submitted, on September 27, 2005, the following requests for the Department to waive a section of the Education Department General Administration Regulations (EDGAR) and certain provisions under the ESEA.

Waiver Request 1: Waive EDGAR 75.261(c)(2) in order for LDE to receive additional CSP funds during an extension period (a period after the original end of a grant period) to expedite the planning and implementation of charter schools to address the immediate educational needs of students displaced as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This section prohibits eligible applicants from receiving additional Federal funds during an extension year.

The Department approves your request and waives 34 C.F.R. 75.261(c)(2) of EDGAR so that LDE can receive additional CSP funds during an extension period. This will enable LDE to expedite the planning and implementation of charter schools in the State to address the immediate educational needs of students displaced as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This approval authorizes LDE to use the supplemental CSP funds the Department awarded Louisiana under its approved CSP application during the current extension period.

Waiver Request 2: Waive section 5202(d)(1) of the ESEA so that eligible applicants that have already received one CSP grant may receive a second grant in order to enroll students displaced as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In addition, LDE requests a waiver of this section to allow eligible applicants that have already received one CSP grant and whose facilities have been damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita to receive a second CSP grant in order to plan, design, and implement a program for a school in recovery. This section prohibits an eligible applicant from receiving more than one CSP grant.

The Department approves your request to waive Section 5202(d)(1) to allow eligible applicants that have already received one CSP grant to receive a second grant in order to enroll students displaced as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This waiver also will enable eligible applicants that have already received one CSP grant and whose facilities have been damaged or destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita to plan, design, and implement programs to replace those damaged or lost as a result of these hurricanes. This approval authorizes LDE to award a second CSP grant to eligible applicants that received planning, program design, and implementation grants previously and are expanding significantly to enroll students displaced as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In addition, this approval authorizes LDE to award a second CSP grant to eligible applicants that have received planning, program design, and implementation grants previously and are replacing programs damaged or lost as a result of these hurricanes.

Waiver Request 3: Waive section 5202(c)(2) of the ESEA in order to allow eligible applicants that were approved and had planned to open schools prior to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita the opportunity to complete a full 36-month grant period without deducting any time accrued under the original application. This section limits CSP grants to a maximum period of three years, no more than 18 months of which may be used for planning and program design and no more than two years of which may be used for the initial implementation of a charter school.

The Department approves your request to waive Section 5202(c)(2) to allow eligible applicants that were approved and had planned to open schools prior to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but whose facilities were damaged or destroyed as a result of these hurricanes, the opportunity to complete a full 36-month grant period while not deducting any time lost as a result of these hurricanes. This approval authorizes LDE to allow eligible applicants that received a CSP planning or implementation grant, but were interrupted in their projects, the opportunity to complete a full 36-month grant period of which not more than 18 months may be used for planning and program design and not more than two years for implementation.

Waiver Request 4: Waive section 5204(f)(3) of the ESEA in order to allow the use of subgrant funds for activities that are not considered planning, program design, or initial implementation of a charter school. This section limits the use of CSP funds to "post-award planning and design of the educational program" and "the initial implementation of the charter school." Examples of planning and program design activities include -

  1. Refinement of the desired educational results and of the methods for measuring progress toward achieving those results; and
  2. Professional development of teachers and other staff who will work in the charter school.

Implementation activities may include -

  1. Informing the community about the school;
  2. Acquiring necessary equipment and educational materials and supplies;
  3. Acquiring or developing curriculum materials; and
  4. Other initial operational costs that cannot be met from State or local sources.

The Department does not approve your request to waive section 5204(f)(3) to allow the use of subgrant funds for activities that are not considered to be post-award planning or design of the educational program or the initial implementation of a charter school. CSP funds may only be used for post-award planning and program design or the initial implementation of a charter school. These activities may include, but are not limited to, the examples provided in the statute. In addition, as recipients of Federal funds, the State and charter school must adhere to the cost principles set forth in OMB Circulars A-87 and A-122 in determining allowable costs.

In addition to your waiver requests, the State requested that any new or existing charter schools in Louisiana be allowed to adopt a weighted lottery to give priority to homeless and displaced students. Secretary Spellings has addressed this question in a Dear Colleague letter dated September 14, 2005, which authorizes States and their charter schools to conduct an expedited and weighted lottery for the specific purpose of educating students displaced as a result of Hurricane Katrina. A copy of the Secretary's Dear Colleague letter is enclosed for your review and guidance. This guidance also applies to students displaced as a result of Hurricane Rita.

Thank you for the support and care your department has demonstrated for students in the State of Louisiana displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Louisiana in expanding the number of high-quality charter schools. Please feel free to contact me should you need further assistance.

I am sending an identical response to Glenny Lee Buquet.

Sincerely,

Nina S. Rees
Assistant Deputy Secretary
for Innovation and Improvement

Enclosures

cc: Weegie Peabody


 
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Last Modified: 08/29/2006