This is a fascinating blog post. I urge you to read it. Milwaukee school board member Larry Miller went to New Orleans to learn more about the district that reformers applaud.
And he discovered this editorial in the New Orleans Tribune, which is the oldest African American newspaper in the city, dating back to the 19th century.
Here are some excerpts:
This thing appears to be a run-a-way train.
And we can’t stop it.
We have said all of this and more in the past several weeks and months. Yet, here we are again—devoting an entire issue to sharing the truth about the post-Katrina education reform that is hurting local students, marginalizing parents and disenfranchising voters and taxpayers and that will hurt us for generations to come.
Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Surely, we could find other uses for our newsprint and ink.
Well, we do not ever want it to be said that The New Orleans Tribune sat in silence and said nothing while this travesty took place. That’s not what we do or who we are. You expect more from us. We demand more of ourselves. So we would find no joy in saying “we told you so.” We would rather say “so glad we stopped that from happening.” And we hope that every time we raise our voice, others will take heed and join us in a battle we know is righteous. As such, we will go on record now and every chance we get. We will call out the calamity for what it is. We cannot allow defeat to silence our voice. We will not concede—not with the future of our children at stake. The education of children, especially traditionally under-served African-American children, should be no one’s experiment—or meal ticket.
We’re doing it for the record. See, maybe in 20 years, one of the architects of this so-called reform will finally have a crisis of conscience and admit that they were wrong. Maybe it will be John White or Paul Pastorek. Maybe Leslie Jacobs will see the error of her ways. Maybe.
This is the devastating commentary:
FOR THE RECORD: THEY DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT US
The people, entities, organizations and institutions driving the education reform movement, especially here in New Orleans, don’t care whether our children receive a quality public education. Neither they nor their children attend or have attended public school in New Orleans. It is not about choice or change or charters. If it were really about choice for parents and children, why is a computer program matching students with schools? Sounds more like school chance and happenstance than school choice to us.
Still, they are happy to use that “choice” mantra so long as it means billions of dollars will continue to flow through their non-profit organizations and their new-fangled foundations. They will continue to use that mantra so long as it means contracts for consulting or school construction or Common Core-aligned text books and testing services for their big corporate buddies. They will continue to use that mantra so long as they can hand out cushy jobs to cronies and allies. And the cronies and allies are happy to go along as long as they are taken care of.
For the record, we are not against change or charters. We do not oppose education reform. There are successful models where traditional public schools co-exist with charters to offer students and their parents quality educational opportunities. In fact, the so-called reformers are right. Katrina was the biggest opportunity. It wiped the slate clean. It offered us the rare chance to get it right. We could have built first-rate facilities in neighborhoods across this city. We could have staffed them with top-notch education administrators, veteran teachers and new ones, too, trained and prepared to contribute to the field. We could have had real change. It’s just that what has happened in New Orleans in the 10 years since Katrina has not been about any of those things.
Instead, education reform, pseudo school choice, and the proliferation of charter schools have merely been one of the vehicles co-opted to perform an entirely different agenda—gain control of an entire city and every system that operates within its jurisdiction. Those who fled New Orleans decades ago on the heels of integration want the neighborhoods back. So they tore down public housing. They want seats of political power back; and they are gaining. The schools—or rather control of schools—are a major piece of that puzzle. This so-called reform is a spoke in a wheel that has been turning now for decades. Katrina was the catalyst that allowed these social engineers and profiteers to hasten their plans. If they have to pretend like they care about where our children learn to gain access to and control of money, land, facilities and dominance, it is a small price to pay. If their gain is on the backs of students, parents and taxpayers, so be it. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that there is money—big money—tied up in this reform movement. And if they can control that as well, all the better. Some of the biggest players in this game are about as concerned about the education of poor Black children in New Orleans as they are about a swarming fly.
Come on, let’s get real. The hypocrisy of it all is actually unsettling. One of the biggest national players in this reform folly is the Walton Foundation. The Walton Foundation has funneled nearly $180 million in grant money in three years (2011, 2012, and 2013) to national and local organizations in the name of education reform. In 2014, alone, the Walton Foundation directed more than $2.6 million to local groups, such as New Schools for New Orleans, the Louisiana affiliate of Stand for Children, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, Orleans Public Education Network, 4.0 Schools and the Black Alliance for Educational Options.
Now, it’s the Walton family’s money; and they are free to donate it as they please. But just for a second let’s consider that research clearly shows a correlation between family income and a child’s academic achievement and that the widening achievement gap is in great measure associated the widening wealth gap. Given those points, one would think that if the Waltons were so concerned with transforming educational outcomes for America’s children they would not have to be shamed into giving their own low-wage earning employees a pay raise. The wages earned by many Wal-Mart employees are so low that their workers often rely on food stamps, Section 8 housing assistance, and state-funded healthcare programs.
FOR THE RECORD: MYTHS AND LIES OF THE TRANSFORMATION
Truth is that we would be okay with it all—with the foundations for education for this . . . and the new schools for that . . . if public education in New Orleans was actually improving.
But for the record: The myth that this new system of education is more accountable and successful than before is just that—a MYTH. Better still, it is a pack of lies. Don’t be fooled when the reform advocates tout the successes of schools like Lusher and Ben Franklin. First of all, these are not RSD campuses. They were not taken over by the state. These schools, though they have now been chartered, are OPSB schools. More importantly, they were the crown jewels, the top performers in local public education long before the storm. There was no transformation at these campuses. They have been the consistent successes. They were the schools parents and education advocates pointed to years ago and asked “hey, wait…why can’t you make all of our schools like them.”
So now that we have that straight, here’s the reality of the mythical miracle. Fifty-seven (57) RSD-New Orleans schools have school performance scores and letter grades for the 2013-2014 school year. And they don’t look so miraculous. There are six (6) Ts or schools in transition, meaning they have been assumed by a new charter operator and are being given a grace period before their academic performance is measured. We have written before about this perpetual state of transition that can exist as the RSD decides to kick out one charter operator for another over and again.
There are 20 Cs. The last time we checked Cs were nothing to write home about. They indicate a performance level that is acceptable—not exceptional. They represent mediocrity, which is one reason it is mind-boggling that as we understand it FirstLine Schools is in line to get more get more campuses, despite the poor showing of the schools already under its control (four Cs and one F).
There are combined 24 Ds and Fs. In other words 24 schools are academically inadequate. Twenty-four schools are failing to meet the state’s minimum academic standard.
Yes, there are a few Bs—seven (7) to be exact. Meanwhile, not a single charter school in the RSD-New Orleans has earned an A. And with the state’s fluctuating definition of a “failing” school, even a few of the Bs are suspect.
Recall that in 2005, the state legislator raised the minimum SPS score to 87.4 in order to takeover local schools. The minimum SPS has since been lowered to accommodate the reform’s failure. But based on the same standard used to take over more than 100 schools in New Orleans nearly 10 years ago, three (3) of the schools with B letter grades would actually be considered failing. Just so we are clear and for the record, three (3) RSD schools that have earned Bs in the current performance rankings would have been taken over by the state for those same SPS score 10 years ago.
Add this doleful thought:
More than 54 percent of the charter schools under RSD control are either failing or in transition. Another 35 percent are mediocre. If they were measured by the same standards used to take over the schools in Orleans Parish in 2005, the RSD would be forced to relinquish all but four campuses under its control. Again, just to be clear and for the record: if the RSD were judged by the same standards used to take control of schools in New Orleans 10 years ago, the RSD would be left with only four schools.
The fact that it actually continues to grow its power and control is what is miraculous.
Ah, but that is reform. What a joke…..This reform ain’t done a thing. And yes, that is for the record.
You will hear very different conclusions from those who are on the gravy train, getting some slice of the millions poured into New Orleans to create the miracle of privatization. They say what they are paid to say.
The New Orleans Tribune is not on the payroll.