I urge everyone to please read this essay by Loyola law professor, Bill Quigley.
This is by far the best account of what's currently happening to the New Orleans Public School system that I've read.
Of note is this segment:
The very first public school converted to a charter was done on September 15, 2005, while almost all the city remained closed to residents. The school board did not even hold the meeting in New Orleans.
While President Bush may have been slow to react in other areas after the storm, he made a bold push right after Katrina to help convert public schools to charters.
On September 30, 2005, the US Department of Education pledged $20.9 million to Louisiana for post-Katrina charter schools. The federal government offered no comparable funding to reestablish traditional neighborhood or district schools.
In early October 2005, Governor Blanco issued an executive order waiving waived state laws that required faculty and parent approval to convert a regular public school to a charter school. The Orleans School Board then used this waiver to convert all 13 schools in the less-flooded Algiers community of New Orleans to charter schools without parent or teacher approval.
Then all four thousand public school teachers in New Orleans, members of the largest union in Louisiana, were fired - along with support staff.
The rest of the takeover was accomplished in November 2005 under new rules enacted by the Louisiana legislature. All this while most of the families of public school students remained displaced - many hundreds of miles away.
The New Orleans Teachers Report complained that "Proponents of the New Orleans takeover experiment created the false impression that the hurricane forced the state takeover or that a fair and uniform accountability system led to the state's action. In fact, the state changed the rules and targeted New Orleans schools in an attempt to convert all schools to charter status, not just the failing ones. Most charter schools are pre-existing schools that were converted to charter status. After the mass charter school conversions in the three months following Katrina, the RSD ... authorized only three more charters.... Of the 12 schools, the operation of all but three has been given to providers who are based out of state."
Many foundations are contributing large sums of money to the experiment.
For example, the Laura Bush Foundation has generously donated millions of dollars to rebuild school libraries in schools along the Gulf Coast. Her foundation has given tens of thousands of dollars in grants to rebuild the libraries of 13 schools in New Orleans - eight charter schools and five private Catholic schools. Not one is an RSD regular public school.
I found out this fact about 6 months ago. The Department of Education's 20.9 million dollar pledge was an unprecedented move on the agency's behalf. Bill points out that the "push" came directly from the Bush administration to the Dept. of Ed and then to the state.....with the contingency that the money should be used only for charters. I was told the same thing by the director of a non-profit educational org. the last time I was in D.C. Bill is the first person I've seen that has publicized it...I didn't post it because I wasn't sure if it was completely accurate but I trust Professor Quigley has validated the information.
The topic came up after a screening of the documentary, Left Behind, at George Washington University. I was also told by the non-profit director that the documentary could be used as propaganda to promote the privatization effort. While this was not the intention of the filmmakers, it was unsettling to them when they realized this possibility.
It's important to understand what's going on here.....the playing field is being tilted towards charters in an effort to show that "privatizing education is the answer." We were the worst public school system in the country before the storm....Katrina provided and opportunity to gut that system and reconstitute it as a charter/predominantly private school system. Anything is going to be better than what we were before the storm...naturally the predominantly charter system is going to provide better results than the pre-Katrina NOPS which will in turn give privitization advocates a tremendous amount of fodder for their effort to eliminate public schools.
I'm anxiously awating Professor Quigley's second installment: What the Future Looks Like for New Orleans Children in Public Schools.