New Orleans

New Orleans Becomes an All-Charter School City District


one of the first free schools in new orleans, funded by the estate of a deceased philanthropist

The last of New Orleans' Recovery School District's government-run schools (five of them) closed this week, and when the school year starts in September, every student in the public education system will be attending one of the 58 charter schools in the city. Five hundred and ten out of the district's 600 employees will  be gone by the end of the week. The public education system in New Orleans has been run by the state's Recovery School District since Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005. At that time, the state took over 102 of 117 schools in the city, the "worst performers." Those with skin in the public school game aren't pleased, as The Washington Post reports:

"They [charter school providers] don't answer to anyone," said Sean Johnson, the dean of students at Banneker [Elementary, one of the public schools that has just closed], whose father attended the school while growing up in the Black Pearl neighborhood. "The charters have money and want to make more money. They have their own boards, make their own rules, accept who they want and put out who they want to put out."

According to the Post, before the Recovery School District took over in New Orleans, the elected Orleans Parish School District was bankrupt and $71 million in federal money had gone missing. The high school graduation rate was just 54.4 percent before the state took over; by 2013 it was 77.6 percent. And while those numbers compare the pre- and post-Katrina New Orleans population, data limited to the post-Katrina  population is improving too. In 2007 for example, only 23 percent of students were at grade level for math. That's up to 57 percent. In the meantime, while the Recovery School District is about to have just 90 employees, the failing Orleans Parish School District had more than 7,000 before the state took over. It may be more difficult now to use the public education system for personal enrichment as a jobs program, but the system should also be working a lot better for actual students as it's supposed to.

UPDATE: The headline originally stated New Orleans had become an all-charter city. In fact the Orleans Parish School District still runs a handful of the schools that were not taken over after Hurricane Katrina.

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  1. More Katrinas please!

  2. Pure anarchy. Don’t these heartless bastards know that it’s a human right for every child to get to go to a government-run school with twelve vice-principals to be educated on how best to be obedient to the state?

  3. “They [charter school providers] don’t answer to anyone,” said Sean Johnson

    And the previous public schools did answer to someone?

    1. Pot, meet kettle.

    2. I think Charter Schools answer to parents?

      Can’t have that though.

      1. Parent’s don’t know what’s best for their children. Duh, they’re like the propertah of societah.

    3. Sean Johnson is upset that none of the charter schools offered him a guaranteed-for-life job with no accountability.

    4. It seems to me that they answer to the students and their parents, who will move to other schools if the students’ needs aren’t met.

      That’s a lot more answerability than traditional government schools.

  4. Wow. I did not know this.

    However, knowing even this, I cannot foresee a future in which I would ever live in that below-sea-level disaster in waiting, so – good luck, N’awlinianists!

  5. At least this should put the “skimming” arguments to rest.

    1. There are still arguments about that? Whether it’s good? It certainly happens, we all know that.

      1. It’s certainly bullshit, anybody but you sees that.

      2. Public magnet schools skim too, and have for decades as they’ve been around a lot longer than charters. Yet “skimming” never came up as a problem until the public schools, magnet and non-magnet alike, faced competition from an alternative free system.

      3. Private schools have long been able to skim by offering scholarships. And there wasn’t jack the public schools could do about that.

  6. There are no non-RSD schools in NO?

  7. If the Charter movement can win total victory in NO, its enemies don’t stand a chance.

    1. All it took was a devastating hurricane.

    2. They are, as I write this, circling the wagons and developing a containment strategy. The best counter-strategy is to export NO-style charters to the rest of the country.

    3. Get back to me when they win in NYC and Chicago – then we will have a blessed new era.

      1. How about Detroit? They’re in bad enough shape that changes might be possible. It seems to take a catastrophe before anything can get done.

    4. I agree.

  8. Holy crap what are they trying to do? Improve educational outcomes at the expense of the teachers union? WTF?

  9. “They [charter school providers] don’t answer to anyone,” said Sean Johnson, the dean of students at Banneker [Elementary, one of the public schools that has just closed], whose father attended the school while growing up in the Black Pearl neighborhood. “The charters have money and want to make more money. They have their own boards, make their own rules, accept who they want and put out who they want to put out.”

    How is that any different than government-run schools?

    1. He doesn’t work there.

    2. What is a dean of students at an elementary school? Dean of students?

  10. The WaPo comments really do say it all in what people on the street are thinking:

    1:16 PM CDT [Edited]
    “Anytime you allow parents choice about where they can send their kids to school, it can only be good.”

    Uhh, not always. If your choice is between a poorly performing public school and a religious-based charter school that doesn’t understand the difference between science and religion (i.e., evolution vs. creationism) or that comprehensive sexual education is far superior to abstinence-only or that theology and/or ideology have no place in history or science textbooks, I’m not sure that having that choice is a good thing.

    1. Hey, we don’t want them reading at grade level, they might read the bible!

    2. Translation : “If they’re not being indoctrinated to believe what I believe, they should be left ignorant, and I’m not going to actually check to see what sort of science is taught at parochial schools”

    3. Much better to not learn anything at a public school than learn to read, write, and spell well at a religious school. Because they might also try and convince you the world is 10000 years old.

      Personally….I have raised 3 sons. I would take the second any day of the week, and laugh with my kids at the religious frivolity. And, be happy my kids are being educated properly in other areas. Because in the public schools, they were not educated well in anything.

  11. I’m not sure what justifies the love here for this. Privitization is only a road to success if:

    1) Private actors are relatively unshackled by regulation.
    2) Competitive bidding is a frequent component of the management of contracts with private providers.

    Additionally, in the situation here, we aren’t talking about an expansion of parental choice. Maybe I didn’t read close enough, but is the money following the students and do the parents decide on the place of enrollment? If neither are true, what’s really been accomplished here?

    Without true market competition, you’ll eventually end up with the same rot

    1. RTFA. The data is clear outcomes are much better with much less bureaucracy.

      1. Fun fact: in order to receive your libertarian decoder ring, you must demonstrate advanced proficiency in letting the perfect be the enemy of the good somewhat better.

  12. Orleans Parish Board, which is elected, runs about a half dozen traditional public schools and about 10 charter schools. After Katrina, OPB was given control of the city’s highest performing schools, which had admissions tests. Almost all the white students attending public schools were enrolled in these schools, though I think all the schools were majority black.

    One of OPB’s charters, the very new Bricolage, is trying to attract a socioeconomic mix of students. Critics say charters “segregate” low-income, black students. If Bricolage succeeds, it will be criticized for enrolling more non-disadvantaged students than the average for New Orleans.

    1. I lived in New Orleans before and after Katrina for many years. The government-run schools were a total disaster. As the article notes, people in the school system STOLE $71 million. It might as well been run by Nigerian scam artists.

      Everyone I know sends their kids to expensive private schools in NOLA. I moved out so my son won’t have to endure the hell that is the NOLA school system. I can only hope the charter schools continue to work. But I can say that having no schools at all is better than the NOLA public school system.

      1. When I was a kid the only way to go to a decent school was to go to Catholic School. It didn’t matter if you weren’t Catholic. If you wanted to learn something, that’s where you went.

        1. The horror.

          I bet you weren’t taught any kind of science and were routinely exposed to teh religion.

          1. Right. That is definitely the reputation Jesuit schools have in the US.

  13. I can see by the other comments here that the lessons taught by the ruling class have been well learned.

    The rulers will call this “privatizing” (like they did with the prisons) and the ruled will bleat approvingly.

    And when state-mandated, state-run, taxpayer-funded schooling fails to deliver and is busted with it’s tyrannical hand in the cookie jar, the ruling class will have proved once again that privatization will never work and that we need a strong state to properly supervise our lives.

    1. I have no idea what point you’re trying to make. Can you try again please?

  14. This could be the most significant development in education over the last 30 years. If these charter schools consistently outperform the other city run schools, the demand will be for more, not less.

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