Paul Pastorek

"What Katrina did was it allowed us to think differently."


New Orleans has the most choice-friendly school system in the country, with more than 70 percent of its students attending charter schools. This was Hurricane Katrina's silver lining: After the long-failing school system was literally destroyed, it could be rebuilt from the ground up. Paul Pastorek, superintendent of Louisiana Schools since 2007, has been trying to shake up the education system not only in New Orleans but throughout the state through initiatives such as school board reform, assigning letter grades for all schools, and a new law that aims to cut red tape. For a video version of the interview, go to

reason: What is at the very top of your reform list for education?

Paul Pastorek: The thing that we're most focused on is making decisions that are based on what's in the best interest of children and not necessarily what's in the best interest for adults.

reason: What are the specific programs that come out of that mentality?

Pastorek: One, for example, is to create more options for children. People want to provide a traditional monolithic school system and school district where it's easy on the adults to be able to deliver education in a format. The problem is, kids don't have choices. Kids get stuck in low-achieving, mediocre schools. So what we're really pushing for in Louisiana is to create many options for kids. We want to decentralize the school district. We want to create competition for the providing of services. Online courses, charter schools, vouchers—these are the kinds of things that, if we were only focused on what's in the best interest of kids, we would want to proliferate.

(Interview continues after the video.)

reason: What are the good outcomes that would come out of this?

Pastorek: I think when you create a more competitive environment, people are more likely to push to achieve the objectives that you've set out for them to achieve. If you have a noncompetitive environment, if you have a monopoly, you do not get effectiveness and efficiency. When you create options for parents, then people have to respond, and we've seen this in New Orleans where we have a tremendous amount of options for kids—we have charter, we have voucher. We're going to put in virtual schools here very shortly. When you create those options, parents will vote with their feet, and when teachers and principals realize that, they come together and they solve problems.

reason: Hurricane Katrina literally wiped out the existing school infrastructure. Can these reforms be done in less disastrous circumstances?

Pastorek: You know, I think we sort of focus on the wrong reason why New Orleans is successful. And we tend to think it's Katrina, but we had a system that was utterly failing for so long that people were fed up, and what Katrina did was it allowed us to think differently about what we could have. You could be in St. Louis, Missouri, and you could decide that we've had enough, and they did. And the state took those schools over, just like we took over in New Orleans. Now, how we took them over and what we did with them is a little bit different than what's going on in others. We really have relied on this more competitive model—more decentralized model—and we think that will drive results. And it has.

reason: What is the biggest obstacle to further decentralizing the control of the education system and empowering parents?

Pastorek: There are some real practical problems. Just to give you an example, in a school district that has, say, six schools, [if] you take one or two of those schools and convert them to charter schools and you take all the money that goes with those kids and give it to those charter schools, you necessarily deplete the district's ability to manage the other four schools. Because part of the money that goes to those charter schools now does not go to the central office overhead. So districts are afraid that when you start creating this competitive environment, they'll go out of business.

My answer is: It will go out of business as we know it, but they need to find new ways of doing their business and doing what's really important for the other four schools. The biggest inhibitor to being able to do this more choice-type environment is the existing system seeing its finances go away. 

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  1. Still FTP!

  2. FTP is not “First to Post” either!

    1. File Transfer Protocol?

      1. Free To Poop?

        1. F… err… Have Eager coitus with That Kitty?

          1. Former TSA Perpetrator?

              1. Fluffing the penis?

  3. The love education is like the love of glass. It reminds of the time my dad was living large on the belly of Francis Ford “Jaws of Death” Coppola. The thing about the love of this is that the man is like the god of Christ, Muhammed, and Buddha all wrapped into a big sausage patty of delicious atheism. The thing that gets me angry is the need to re-educate the re-educators of the western cities. The gods of Marcus and Marcus of New Orleans will kill the baby rapers of the Jesusfreakland that is Louisiana. That makes this an impressive thing for the goddess of the market of the books, Ayn Rand, to try to accomplish.

    Understand, this makes me a greater man. But education is silly without the love of the cocaine that kills the WINNING spirit of the Jewish disciples of the Reagan Revolution. The thing that reminds me of he losing feeling I felt as I killed a monkey that rested on the bow of my yacht. The thing that keeps me going is the butt-sex with the young babes of the Shreveport area that killed the feeling I felt to get the need to drink Tobacco and Firearms.

    This needs to be said that if the feelings that kept me and you together for the sake of the diamonds in my safe deposit box was yours to keep, then education would be on the minds of most inner city school kids that kept me going as a child when my dad was resting on the belly of the small-time porn directors he was working for in the days of wonder in the smelliest canyons and the dirtiest diapers of the feelings I get when I’m with her.

    Now, go and see the Louisiana school superintended think about saving schools. You can watch me over by the shore drinking a girl’s pussy juice and relaxing in the cold sun.


    1. my advice is drink heavily

      1. You would say that “Chaim”!

    2. I find your ideas intriguing and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  4. If there were a god, we’d get a president like Paul Pastorak. The imprisonment of New Orleans school kids for a hundred years is a crime that shouldn’t go unpunished.

    1. If there were a god, we might have ended up with the apostolic communism they failed at in Acts. Yikes!

  5. Off-topic, but Garry Johnson just announced he’s running for the GOP nomination. He’s less kooky than Ron Paul and without the racist baggage. He’s pro-gay rights, pro-legalization of pot, and didn’t say anything about Christian family values. An intelligent man of the right. What do you think his chances of appealing to the moronic Republican base are? Fucking zilch.

    1. You might be surprised. I know a lot of people in Virginia who regularly vote Republican just because the GOP generally seems to screw things up more slowly, not because they are headed in a direction these voters actually want.

      Sad to have to try to feel good voting for inefficiency, but there it is.

    2. “Fucking zilch.” Just like with the independents.

  6. “What Katrina did was it allowed us to think differently.”
    Not differently enough evidently….they rebuilt that shithole below sea level again.

    1. Little Mermaid Elementary School song:
      Under the sea,
      under the sea,
      Ready for drowning,
      you and me!

    2. Actually they didn’t. Huge swaths of the area are still just open land. Some stuff has been rebuilt, but most of it is just lying fallow.

  7. That actually makes a lot of sense dude.

  8. I have two young daughters and that last thing and I pay high taxes and a lot for my house so that my kids could attend the AMAZING schools in this district. I recently moved from a crappy school district once my oldest was ready for Public.

    I think that it is no coincidence that kids have no choice other than their local crappy (or good) schools or private schools.

    If you look at NY and NJ, both states you can see that the more affluent neighborhoods (the ones with the highest property taxes and real estate values) have the BEST schools.

    Today, it doesn’t matter if you are black/white. What really matters if you can afford the neighborhood. There’s no cross burning in Millburn, NJ when a black family moves in. In fact, the neighbors bring cookies no matter who moves in since CASH RULES.

    Generally speaking, these neighborhoods with great schools don’t need to educate kids from single-parent or disfunctional families, the me-no-speke-de-engle crowd, and deal with metal-detectors.

    In my town, we pay HIGH TAXES ($18k year). Our public schools are UNION-FREE. Not a single teacher makes less than $125k and are really good and we have the grades and college admissions to prove it. It costs $12,000/year to educate a child.

    In the next town (the other side of the tracks), taxes are also high. However, it costs $27,000/year to educate kids due to ESL, kids with NO pre-school before showing up to Kindergarden, crime, corruption, etc.

    I have a strong feeling that the folks in my town don’t want those people to have vouchers.

    1. If you look at NY and NJ, both states you can see that the more affluent neighborhoods (the ones with the highest property taxes and real estate values) have the BEST schools.

      Historically, the wealthy have generally be able to afford better education than the less affluent.

      Please try again.

      1. It isn’t so much their wealth as it is having two good parents. With a very strong work ethic. Wealth and good children usually are the result.

    2. I agree with both of you guys. Parents are #1. I didn’t think my post above stated anything different other than that parents in good school district probably are not for vouchers so that the kids on the other side of the track can start going to school with Junior.

      1. Schools really have two different functions, one being socializing kids and maintaining order and the other being filling their heads with facts and/or fanciful crap.

        Expecting Socrates to also function as a prison guard/drill instructor is half the problem — being good at one does not mean being good at the other. Schools could support much larger class sizes if they separated the tasks of instructor (only one needed), helper/evaluator (less credentialed assistants), and enforcer (depends on the size and disposition of the class).

        We pretty much have two school tracks: “trying to prepare for productive life” and “obligated to keep here”. But if we focused on separating students on the basis of both academic and disciplinary needs, then we’d probably do better by more of them.

  9. Hal Holbrook + Ronald Reagan.

  10. The most nicely acknowledged craze nowadays that is used, is placing on using the Oxford shoes. granted that offered in lots of different colours and composed near to the rubberize part using the shoe is extremely well-known among the consumers.

  11. WTF is up with the bizaar spam/posts in this thread.

  12. Up is down. Left is right. Government improves education.

    All statements of equal validity.

  13. What Katrina did was it allowed us to think differently

    No, what Katrina did was gut the local opposition to school choice. You’re not thinking differently, you’re just able to act on it now.

  14. What Katrina did was turn on the kitchen light, knocked over the box of crackers on the shelf and exposed the lies about how encouraging helplessness is good for the people. So they got to ‘reset’ the NO city schools. Big deal. Just traded one bunch of idiots who won’t be able to deal with the kids of single parents on welfare for a new set of idiots. Difference? Oh, yes, they sign different songs in class now. Better outcomes for the kids? Not on your tintype; that would upset ‘business as usual’.

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