As Stephanie Henderson Carter stood before the state BESE Board Wednesday trying to persuade the board to approve a laboratory school for Monroe, the local daily paper printed a report from the state legislative auditor that accuses another black-run charter school in Monroe of mishandling state funds.
Latoya Jackson, executive director of Vision Academy, says the timing of the published report about Vision Academy is an effort to hurt Carter’s chances of being state-funded.
Carter’s application for a charter school was turned down by the Monroe City School Board which sent the measure for BESE for consideration as a state sponsored school.
Although Carter’s application is not connected in any way with Vision Academy the timing of the published report, on the very day that Carter appeared before BESE would no doubt have a negative impact.
In a scathing report on August 28th, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor has accused Learning Solutions of funneling state funds to a private daycare center in an what it calls an elaborate shell game designed to defraud the state.
Learning Solutions, Inc. is the non-profit that sponsored Vision Learning Academy. The school was the brainchild of Dr. LaToya Jackson, who successfully used the school to push scores of dropouts through high school and into college.
Wednesday, Jackson said the Vision Board saw the need to begin working with youth at the pre-school level and authorized the transfer of $200,000 from the Vision account to Learning Solutions to begin the process of setting up a preschool version of Vision Academy to prevent students from reaching the point of dropping out.
Jackson said every step of the process was on the advice of Vision’s attorney, Micheal P. Higgins of the New Orleans firm of Schulman, Lopez, Hoffer, & Adelstein LLP.
Jackson said the law firm was referred to the school by the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.
The Free Press viewed a series of emails between Jackson and Higgins in which she requested guidance to make sure the organization’s actions to set up the school were legal with no conflicts.
In all, Jackson said there were 54 emails in which the law firm advised the organization, set up the non-profit corporation, and gave guidance to make the transactions legal.
In one email exchange between Higgins and Jackson, the attorney gave her steps to comply with the law and October of 2016, Jackson answered Higgins saying,
“The line of credit was given to Learning Solutions and placed in dream Academy’s account as discussed for the new school. The bank secured the line with a learning Solutions cd. However, the cd will never be used and funds will never be co-mingled according to the bank as long as dream Academy pays their bill. However, it can never be used . This is the way the bank set it up. I don’t ever want it to ever come back that Dream Academy was opened using funds from Learning Solutions. We set it up just as we were advised.”
The auditor’s report said the school transferred $200,000 to Learning Solutions. Learning Solutions then used $100,000 of the funds to buy a Certificate of Deposit at one bank and then used the CD to secure a $100,000 loan at another bank, for the purpose of opening a daycare facility at own by The First Church on Forsyte Avenue.
Learning Solutions secured a line of credit for Jackson with the remaining $100,000 for the purpose of equipping making repairs and other enhancements to the building.
The audit report said the Day Care was privately owned. Jackson noted that while the daycare was privately owned it was not a for-profit business and is a subsidiary of Learning Solutions, established in ways that complied with state law on the advice of the organization’s legal team.
Since BESE chose not to continue the contract of the Vision past June 30, 2019, of this year, it seeks to get back any outstanding funds the school had.
The audit report said Learning solutions did not comply with open meetings laws by posting advance notice of its meetings and making decisions by a voice vote with public input.
Jackson said Learning Solutions, Inc. was advised by its attorneys that the organization is not a government agency and is not governed by open meetings laws.
The money used to secure the daycare is being held by a local bank securing the loan. When the loan has been satisfied the CD will be released and the proceeds returned to the state.
Jackson said the real issue is not about Vision Academy or the Dream Academy school, or Learning Solutions; it’s about damaging the possibilities of the approval of the Brown Laboratory Charter School application that is being considered by the BESE Board.
Jackson said the audit report was released last week, but was “coincidentally” held and reported in thenewsstar.com on the same day Mrs. Carter appeared before the state BESE Board.
The false implication is that a black run charter school will be corrupt, Jackson said. “This is not true,” she said.
Earlier this year the Monroe City School Board approved Carter’s charter application, then came back the next week and reversed itself after Board President Bill Willson put on a full court press to convince the board not to approve the application.
That immediately sent the application to BESE. If approved the school would be located in Monroe and operate on about $2 million a year.
However, in 2013 the Neville Alumni and Friends proposed an application by mostly Northside whites, to completely take over Neville High, its buildings and facilities at a cost of $50 million over five years.
Superintendent Brent Vidrine favored that action, which ultimately failed but has worked against all efforts by black groups to form or operate charter schools in Monroe.