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.