February 13, 2006

THANKS, BIG GUY (via Tom Morin):

Missing school in the Big Easy: As kids in New Orleans are turned away from filled schools, the city gambles its future on charter schools. (Michelle Goldberg, 2/13/06, Salon)

Before the storm, New Orleans operated 117 public schools for 65,000 kids -- over 90 percent of them African-American. Today, only 20 schools are open. School officials say that by August, as families, now scattered across the country, begin to return to New Orleans, the district will open more schools and be able to handle a total of 25,000 kids. But the current lack of available schools is about more than the physical destruction wrought by Katrina. To many activists, it points to serious inequities in the massive transformation of the New Orleans public school system. Long one of the nation's worst, the school system is being re-created as a laboratory for charter schools, a type of reform often favored by conservatives and opposed by teachers unions and others who see it as a gateway to privatization. Nearly 90 percent, or 102 schools, could ultimately be run as charters. Nothing on this scale has ever been tried before.

Brenda Mitchell, president of United Teachers of New Orleans, says she is not a conspiracy theorist, but when she considers the new charter system, she is not sure how else to think. "It's all part of the privatization and social engineering of the city, limiting the return of poor people and African-Americans," she says. "If you're not providing housing for them, if you don't want to provide schools to educate them, how are they going to come back to rebuild the city?"

Yet this isn't simply a battle between callous privatizers and righteous locals. Plenty of residents are desperate for a school system that works, and they're eager for a restructuring. New Orleans public schools were a disaster well before Katrina hit, and some of the city's education experts see a once-in-a-lifetime chance to rebuild them free of the stifling, often corrupt bureaucracy that's impeded progress in the past.

It's almost enough to make you believe that God did destroy the city intentionally so it could be rebuilt in ways that would set his people free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 13, 2006 8:11 AM

But Mitchell is right: if you "rebuild them free of the stifling, often corrupt bureaucracy" then why would the stifling, often corrupt bureaucrats return?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at February 13, 2006 2:25 PM

Blanco would actually have a chance ro regain some of her in-state support if she was to get out in front of the charter school movement. But given her politcal accumen on everything else Katrina-releated, I expect her to lead the effort to man the barricades with the teacher's union.

Posted by: John at February 13, 2006 3:50 PM