Not everyone in New Orleans is pleased with the loss of public education. Youth groups are speaking out and organizing.

In this article, Jacob Cohen shows how the state board, operating with “God-like” power, closes and opens schools as if they were chain stores, not community institutions in which people’s lives are invested.

The Times-Picayune must have taken some powerful flak for publishing Jacob’s article, because a few days later the paper published an editorial strongly defending the charter schools of New Orleans. How amazing that a young man like Jacob Cohen could so alarm the charter citadel and cause them to wheel out their big guns.

Here is a sample of what Jacob wrote:

“The instability and chaos being wrought on eastern New Orleans doesn’t embarrass the state’s most ideological reformers. A high-ranking RSD official once explained to me that schools are like sandwich shops — the ones that do not serve good sandwiches must be shut down so that others can expand their market share. The state is the invisible hand, facilitating capitalism’s natural process of creative destruction by closing the schools that don’t serve up high-quality sandwiches.

“In eastern New Orleans, we need less ideological fervor from the state and more compassion. Less free market fundamentalism and more pragmatism. Less “benign neglect” and more technical support, particularly when it comes to serving students at struggling schools. Letting these schools hit rock bottom so that they can one day be taken over by fashionable charter organizations has led to the sacrifice of thousands of children’s educations — in hopes that the new programs may be stronger.”

Jacob Cohen is the assistant director of the Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association (VAYLA) of New Orleans and the director and co-founder of the Raise Your Hand Campaign, a youth organizing initiative that focuses on education equity within New Orleans public high schools.
A graduate of Pomona College, he is the inaugural recipient of the Napier Initiative Creative Leadership Award, as well as the Davis Projects for Peace Award and the Donald Strauss Award. His senior thesis Privatization, Antidemocratic Governance and the “New Orleans Miracle,” received the Edward Sait prize in American Politics, and examines post-Katrina education reform and youth participatory action research.