In New Orleans, Traditional Public Schools Close for Good
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina gave advocates of charter schools and the privatization of public education a rare chance: a blank slate on which to construct their utopian plan of childhood education.
There are now no traditional public schools in New Orleans. They’ve all been replaced by charter schools, which are run by non-public entities but still have access to public funding.
Some say the new system has improved the quality of education in NOLA, but it’s hard to make valid comparisons, since thousands of schoolchildren never returned to the city after Katrina. The demographics of the city have changed too much.
One thing is sure, the demographics of the teaching force has changed. Experienced teachers, mostly African-American, were replaced with eager (and cheaper), but inexperienced Teach for America recruits. And, curiously, some schools’ student populations are mostly white while others are mostly black.
After Katrina, the Orleans Parish School Board fired more than 7,000 employees — nearly all of them African American — while the charter schools hired scores of young teachers, many of them white recruits from Teach for America. The fired teachers sued for wrongful termination and won a judgment that could total more than $1 billion.
White students disproportionately attend the best charter schools, while the worst are almost exclusively populated by African American students. Activists in New Orleans joined with others in Detroit and Newark last month to file a federal civil rights complaint, alleging that the city’s best-performing schools have admissions policies that exclude African American children. Those schools are overseen by the separate Orleans Parish School Board, and they don’t participate in OneApp, the city’s centralized school enrollment lottery.
Coincidence. I think not. Charter schools allow education “reformers” the ability to do what they really wanted to do in the first place: re-segregate the schools and separate parents from governance of the schools.