Mercedes Schneider informs us that New Orleans, the nation’s first and so far only all-charter district, must downsize. It has 50,000 seats, but only 47,000 students. How will the district handle this challenge?

The core problem, she points out, is that each school has its own bureaucracy. How will they decide how to “right size” the district?

She writes:

Stability in a school district is not a goal of market-based education reform. On the contrary, “disruption” is the name of the ed-reform game; supposedly disruption and market forces somehow come together to foster parental empowerment and a “choice” situation in which the best schools automatically thrive and the less-than-best are efficiently weeded out as a result of empowered parents not choosing them.

The simplistic, smooth-operation fantasy noted above has never come to fruition in New Orleans’ “portfolio” district– one comprised completely of charter schools, some under the same management organizations, most authorized by the district but some authorized by the state (under the label Recovery School District, or RSD, with the true purpose of converting traditional New Orleans schools into charter schools) but none directly operated by a local, elected school board.

Having no consistent, centralized, publicly-elected oversight of a loosely-comprised school “district” creates many problems. First of all, the level of bureaucracy is magnified as each school or small groupings of schools is under its own appointed board and management organization. It is therefore no wonder that in New Orleans K12 schools, more salary dollars for admin increased as salary dollars for teachers decreased. Lack of centralization also makes it unrealistic to track students who leave one school to be sure that they arrive at another school. In 2015, then-RSD assistant superintendent Dana Peterson admitted that he “didn’t know” how many students disappeared from the decentralized, RSD schools.

Then comes the issue of how parental choice translates into impractical outcomes, including the inability for parents to get their children enrolled in schools physically near their homes. Parents must apply for schools using New Orleans’ “OneApp” application process, which parents complain is opaque. In 2013, I wrote about the difficulty in navigating the OneApp, which left parents to mostly choose from schools graded D or F. Some schools institute additional acceptance criteria, such as special meetings and parent essays. Former RSD superintendent Patrick Dobard admitted in 2018 that New Orleans needed “more good schools.” Nevertheless, somehow, New Orleans’ white students seem to overwhelmingly end up enrolled in New Orleans schools rated A and B, so it is no wonder that New Orleans parents complain about the opaqueness of the OneApp process.

“Parental empowerment” seems to practically translate into “selective parental empowerment.”

By June 2018, all-charter New Orleans was once again under a New Orleans school board (as opposed to being under the state-run RSD). However, the schools still have that previously-mentioned extra layer of “portfolio” bureacracy. It seemed that the New Orleans Public School (NOLA-PS) district (as the new district is called) was primarily in place to investigate financial mismanagement and fraud, such as the “emergency revoking” of three charters due to financial issues and the 2019 Kennedy High School grade-fixing scandal, which resulted in transferring Kennedy and another school to another management org (that is, to a different, non-cheating, extra “portfolio” layer of bureacracy) and NOLA-PS instituting a new means of auditing student records.

As customary, I have taken an excerpt from this very interesting post. Open the link and read it all.