Arizona has no restrictions on the makeup of a charter school's student body, so if a school happens to attract lots of upper income families, that's fine. Not so in Louisiana. If a school district is the chartering agent, the law says the student body has to have a similar percentage of "at risk" students as the district. That presents a problem for BASIS, which wants to open a school in Baton Rouge, where more than 70 percent of students come from families considered "at risk." BASIS thrives on catering to advantaged students. What to do?
BASIS came up with an answer. Build the school on the property of Woman's Hospital
. Then half the school's student body can be children of the hospital employees—they get the first shot before other applicants are considered—and they aren't counted in the school's socioeconomic mix. So BASIS can forget the usual 70 percent mark for "at risk" students.
BASIS’ application estimates that only 20 percent of those students will come from poor backgrounds, sometimes called “at risk,” which would make it one of the most affluent public schools in the state.
I'm not sure how BASIS came up with the 20 percent figure. If half the student body follows the Louisiana guidelines, the number should be closer to 35 percent. But whatever the final numbers turn out to be, the school district's board is fine with the arrangement. It voted 6-0 to give BASIS a provisional contract.
The next time BASIS says its schools don't cater to an elite student body, think about Baton Rouge where BASIS is gaming the system to make sure most it enrolls as few "at risk" kids as possible. The truth is, BASIS's much-touted "best in the nation" status has always had more to do with its pupils than its pedagogy.