Archives for category: New Orleans

Mike Deshotels is a retired educator in Louisiana, who blogs at “Louisiana Educator.” He wrote the following post about the now well-established all-charter district.

The state of Louisiana took over most public schools in New Orleans after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It turned them over to charter operators, who were expected to get better academic results than the underfunded public schools. The city’s experienced teachers, mostly African-American, like their students, were fired and replaced by inexperienced Teach for America recruits. Philanthropies and the federal government poured billions into the district to help privatization succeed.

Other states, impressed by the promises of privatization, pushed for more charter schools, and some for vouchers, like Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio. Michigan created the Education Achievement Authority (which failed), Tennessee created the Achievement School District, which boldly promised dramatic increases in test scores. It failed too. Still others, like Oklahoma, Nevada, and Texas, encouraged privatization and rapid expansion of charter schools.

Billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Charles Koch, Betsy DeVos, and the Waltons continue to fund the charter idea, as does the federal government, whose Charter Schools Program doles out $440 million annually to open or expand charter schools (many of which will fail or never open).

For the billionaires and the charter lobby, New Orleans was the shining star of the corporate reform movement, promising huge academic gains by firing teachers, closing public schools, and privatizing low-performing schools. New Orleans is the foundational myth of the charter movement.

Mike Deshotels shows here that the New Orleans “miracle” was and is a vast mirage. Fully a decade ago, in a dissent to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations that endorsed privatization of public schools, Linda Darling-Hammond wrote that “New Orleans remains the lowest-ranked district in the low-performing state of Louisiana.” Billions of dollars later, New Orleans continues to be the lowest performing school district in the lowest performing state.

Here is an excerpt from Mike Deshotels’ post:

This recently released report by the Louisiana Pelican Policy Institute, a business funded “good government” group has produced a dashboard that compares the most recent data on all public-school systems in Louisiana. It provides a way for us to compare expenditures and results in public schools. We can now get a good idea about whether the school reforms in New Orleans have lived up to their promises.

It is important to note that not all public schools in New Orleans at the time of takeover had been deemed to be failures. Even though the Orleans public school system, as a whole, fell into the bottom quartile of public school systems in the state based on academic achievement, there was a group of public schools in New Orleans that were performing well, even before 2006. Several highly selective schools had been producing high academic achievement and great college prep results. So approximately one-fourth of the Orleans schools were left intact because of acceptable results. Those schools, even though now converted into charters, continue to be selective in the students they serve and continue to produce exemplary results. But there is still a major problem with the state test scores of the other three-fourths – the reformed takeover schools.

The recent study shows that taken as a whole, the New Orleans all charter system is still ranking in the bottom quartile of all public-school systems in the state. This is in a state that performs near the bottom of all states on national testing and college preparedness. For example, the new dashboard reveals that for the four academic subjects of math, reading, science and social studies, only 18% of all New Orleans public school students are now rated proficient or better. (I averaged the results of the 4 academic subjects)

In the key subjects of math and reading, Orleans performs at the 24th percentile compared to all other state school systems. This is approximately the same as the Orleans school system performed before Katrina!

What about efficiency in the use of per pupil dollars? Has the new business-oriented model resulted in more efficient use of tax and grant dollars?

One thing that the all-charter system has been successful in doing is attracting a generous flow of charitable foundation money to these new experimental schools. A sizable portion of per pupil dollars in the reformed Orleans public system come from charitable and foundation grants. So the reformed all charter school system is certainly well funded.

The Pelican Policy Institute study has provided a rough measure of how the school money in Orleans is now allocated. Total per pupil funding of the New Orleans system now adds up to $24,434 per student. For Louisiana, this is lavish funding by any measure. The state average per pupil funding is now $11,755, less than half the per pupil amount for New Orleans. How do the New Orleans schools allocate their per pupil funding compared to all other public schools? According to the Pelican Policy dashboard, New Orleans now spends 23% of all its funding on administration and 36% on classroom instruction. (Salaries of the Charter managers are not published as far as I know) The state average for other systems in Louisiana is 8% for administration and 56% for the classrooms. (All non-charter public-school administrators and teacher salary schedules are public records)

Did the increased funding allow the reformed Orleans school system to hire a better quality of teachers? The state auditor recently found that more than half of the Orleans teachers are not certified as teachers. In addition, most of the teachers now employed in Orleans are Caucasian while 90% of the students are African American. This ignores studies that show that children learn better from real role models of their own ethnic type. So much for the new business approach.

Finally, on average, the other school systems in the state have 31% of students achieving proficiency in the 4 basic subjects tested. This compares to 18% achieving proficiency in the new reformed Orleans system.

 

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.

Steve Luxenberg, an editor at The Washington Post and the author of a 2019 book on racial separation and the Plessy case, Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation, wrote to correct important errors in my post about Homer Plessy.

Plessy, you may recall, was arrested in New Orleans for attempting to ride in an all-white train car, thus violating state law. His was a test case of a recently enacted segregation statute. When his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the racial segregation law, the Court issued a ruling in 1896 endorsing the law and the legality of “separate but equal.” This endorsement of de jure segregation remained intact until the Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954.

Now, here are the facts about Homer Plessy, as documented by Luxenberg. I am grateful to him for correcting my version (and errors in the article I quoted):

1. Plessy was not found guilty after his arrest (in 1892), and as a result, his lawyers did not appeal that conviction. The case went to the Supreme Court on entirely different grounds. Cutting to the chase for now: Judge Ferguson held off on a trial, instead issuing a ruling on the constitutionality of Louisiana’s Separate Car Act. That was a gift to Plessy’s legal team, because it meant that they could appeal Ferguson’s ruling (he said the Act was constitutional) rather than pursuing a habeas corpus strategy as planned. The Citizens Committee (the group that planned and arranged for Plessy’s arrest as a test case) did not want Plessy in jail while the appeal was wending its way through the courts.

2. Judge Ferguson never found Plessy guilty, and he wasn’t convicted in 1890. In January 1897, nearly eight months after the Supreme Court’s ruling, Plessy pleaded guilty, before a different judge, to close the case. The Citizens Committee paid his $25 fine.

That ruling—Plessy vs. Ferguson— okayed racial segregation statutes that locked millions of Black Americans into second-class status, since separate was never equal in a racist society. Separate but equal remained in place until it was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1954, a decision that was boldly resisted by the South for years.

Homer Plessy will be posthumously pardoned as a result of a sustained effort by his descendant Keith Plessy, and the descendant of Judge John Howard Ferguson.

Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson created a foundation to honor Homer Plessy and to advance the cause of racial reconciliation. Plessy and Ferguson and their allies worked for the past 11 years to get a pardon for Homer Plessy, and they have just succeeded.

Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson’s drive to right a terrible, devastating wrong came to full fruition last month, when they appeared before the Louisiana Pardon Board to ask the board to extend a pardon to Homer Plessy for his conviction in 1890 [this date is wrong]. The board swiftly agreed with the pair and voted unanimously on Nov. 12 to pardon Homer Plessy.

Keith Plessy said that his ancestor Homer was selected by a local group of activists to challenge the law.

Keith Plessy placed their crusade for justice in further historical context, pointing out that Homer Plessy was actually carefully selected by late-19th-century civil rights advocates to test the state’s segregation laws of that era.

The New Orleans organization called the Comite de Citoyens, or Committee of Citizens – a multi-ethnic group of activists dedicated to fighting the 1890 Separate Car Act – chose Plessy, a mixed-race Creole, to test the law by getting arrested and placing the matter in the courts.

Once in court, Plessy’s attorneys argued that the Separate Car Act, and as such Plessy’s arrest, violated his Constitutional rights under the 13th and 14th Amendments, an argument the court rejected with his conviction.

“I feel that working together, we have been trying to tell the whole story of the Citizens Committee and the Civil Rights Movement that continued after this case,” Keith Plessy said. “[The Plessy strategy] was the blueprint that was used over and over again [by Civil Rights advocates] in the 20th century.”

“New Orleans,” he added, “was the crucible of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Governor John Bel Edwards (a Democrat) declared that he would swiftly sign Plessy’s pardon.

I had the pleasure of meeting Phoebe Ferguson and Keith Plessy when I spoke at Dillard University, a historically Black university in New Orleans, in 2010. It was incredible to meet these two people who symbolized such an important and infamous event in American history. Thanks to these two persistent people for their fight to keep Homer Plessy’s legacy alive and to pursue Justice. We are still struggling to overcome the legacy of Jim Crow era legislation.

 

 

Steven Greehouse, a veteran journalist, wrote an article for The American Prospect that demonstrates the power of unions to improve the lives of workers. The story includes vignettes of workers in different fields who describe how joining a union has raised their salaries, cut the cost of healthcare, and created a workplace where their voices are heard.

He tells the stories of the following working people, whose lives were changed by organizing or joining a union.

  • Laura Asher, a former combat medic who was working as a hospital aide, saw her pay jump when she entered her union’s apprenticeship program to become a crane operator. Her pay is now more than three times what her hospital job paid.
  • Gregory Swanson, a charter school teacher, was hugely frustrated that his school’s top official assigned him a salary far below his level of experience. But his union contract changed that, requiring the school to follow a pay scale based on years of experience.
  • Madeleine Souza-Rivera, a barista at a café in one of Google’s giant office complexes, used to feel overwhelmed by the $9,600 she paid each year in health care premiums. Thanks to her union contract, she now pays nothing toward health premiums.
  • Donnell Jefferson, a warehouse worker, complained that he was never sure when he could leave work—his boss would suddenly order workers to put in two, and sometimes even eight, extra hours on the job. But with his union contract, his work hours are now far more predictable.
  • Lorie Quinn, a hospital housekeeper who cleans intensive-care units, has seen her pay increase by 70 percent since her hospital unionized six years ago. Moreover, her health insurance premiums have been cut in half.

More than 14 million workers across the United States—carpenters, steelworkers, nurses, teachers, truck drivers, and many others—are union members, but rarely does one read how unions have improved workers’ jobs and lives.

Three scholars have recently published a very informative book about the history of education in New Orleans. The authors tell this story by scrutinizing one very important elementary school in the city, the one that was first to be desegregated with one black student in 1960. The book is titled William Frantz Public School: A Story of Race, Resistance, Resiliency, and Recovery in New Orleans (Peter Lang). The authors are Connie L. Schaffer, Meg White, and Martha Graham Viator.

This is the school that enrolled 6-year-old Ruby Bridges in November 1960. Her entry to the school each day, a tiny little girl accompanied by federal agents, was met with howling, angry white parents. Her admission to an all-white school in New Orleans was a landmark in the fight to implement the Brown v. Board decision of 1954. It was immortalized by Norman Rockwell in a famous painting called The Problem We All Live With.

The authors set the stage for their history by pointing out that the Reconstruction-era constitution of Louisiana forbade racially segregated schools. In the early 1870s, about one-third of the public schools in New Orleans were racially integrated. Some schools had racially integrated teaching staffs. School board members were both white and black. When Reconstruction ended, rigid racial segregation and white supremacy were restored.

The William Frantz Public School opened in 1938 as a school for white children. It occupied almost a full city block.It was one of the few schools built during the Depression. It was built to accommodate 570 children. The authors demonstrate the vast inequality between white schools and black schools. Not far away was a school for black children of elementary age. Not only were black schools overcrowded, but black neighborhoods had problems with poorly maintained sewers, streets, sidewalks, gas and water lines, and structurally unsound buildings. Black schools were dilapidated, students shared desks, and class sizes were often in excess of 60 children to one teacher. Black students had fewer instructional hours than white students, due to overcrowding. White teachers were paid more than black teachers.

Black citizens of New Orleans were outraged by these conditions but they were politically powerless. The white power structure did not care about the education of black children.

Then came the Brown decision of 1954, which declared the policy of “separate but equal” to be unjust. The federal courts moved slowly to implement desegregation, but eventually they began to enforce it. The federal district judge who took charge of desegregation in New Orleans was J. Shelley Wright, a graduate of the city’s white schools. He determined to implement the Brown decision, despite the opposition of the Governor, the Legislature, the Mayor, and prominent white citizens of the city, as well as White Citizens Councils.

In 1958, the Louisiana legislature passed several measures to weaken desegregation efforts including laws allowing the governor to close any school that desegregated, providing state funds to any students seeking to leave the traditional public schools, and granting the state sweeping power to control all schools.

Their well-written history brings the reader to the present, to the all-charter model that privatizers hold up as an exemplar for every urban district troubled by low test scores and white flight.

The section of the book that I found most interesting was their detailed account of the white reaction to the prospect of school integration, despite the fact that the black students who applied to attend white schools were carefully screened for their academic potential and their behavior. Ruby Bridges was the one and only student chosen to start desegregation. Crowds gathered every morning to spit and scream. They harassed not only Ruby, with her federal protection, but any white student who dared to enter the school. Their blockade eventually forced whites to abandon the William Franz Public School. A few persisted, but little Ruby never met them. She was assigned to a classroom with no other students and one teacher.

The whites who tried to stay in the school were subject to threats of violence. Some lost their jobs, as did Ruby’s father. They feared for their lives. The hatred for blacks by whites was explosive. The portrayal of malignant racism is searing.

A relatively small number of whites tried to calm the situation. One such group was called Save Our Schools. They reached out to the white parents of the school, trying to bring peace and reconciliation.

In perhaps the most disturbing response to an SOS mailing, a WFPS parent who had received a letter from SOS returned the letter smeared with feces. A handwritten comment on the letter stated the parent would rather have ignorant children then to send them to a “nigger school.”

The mob won. By the middle of the school year, fewer than 10 white students remained in the school, and they too needed protection. By 1993, not one white student attended the school.

As the tumult continued after Ruby’s admission, prominent whites funded private schools so that white students could escape the specter of desegregation. The Legislature passed laws to support the resistance to desegregation and to give vouchers to whites fleeing the public schools and to underwrite the private academies where racist white students enrolled.

When the battle over desegregation began, New Orleans schools enrolled a white majority. Racism led to white flight, and before long the school district was overwhelmingly black, as was the city.

The authors detail the problems of the district. Not only was it segregated and underfunded, but its leadership was unstable. The management was frequently incompetent and corrupt. Its accounting department was a mess. So was Human Resources. Teachers were not paid on time. The management was woeful. The state wanted to take control of the district before Hurricane Katrina. Three months before the disastrous hurricane, the state leaned on the district to hire a corporate restructuring firm at a cost of $16.8 million.

In June, the Louisiana Department of Education and the Orleans Parish School Board signed an agreement relinquishing the management of the district’s multi-million dollar operating budget to the state. As a result, the district entered into negotiations with a New York turnaround management corporation, Alvarez and Marsal, to oversee its finances. In the contract, the board not only surrendered financial control, it also granted the firm authority to hire and fire employees.

Alvarez & Marsal put one of its senior partners, Bill Roberti, in charge of the district. Before joining the management consultants, Roberti had run the clothing store Brooks Brothers. A&M had previously received $5 million for a year of controlling the St. Louis school district, which was not “turned around,” and collected $15 million for reorganizing New York City’s school bus routes, with poor results (some children were stranded for long periods of time, waiting for buses on the coldest day of the year).


Before the hurricane, the state created the Recovery School District (in 2003) to take control of failing schools. In 2004, it passed Act 9, which allowed the state to take over schools with an academic score of 60 or less and hand them over to charter operators. After the hurricane, the Legislature passed Act 35, which changed the criteria for takeover and paved the way for the Recovery School District to take charge of most of the city’s public schools. Parents got “choice,” but the new charter schools created their own admissions policies, and most did the choosing.

Prior to Act 35, schools with School Performance Scores below 60 were considered to be in academic crisis. Act 35 raised the threshold score to 87.5, virtually ensuring every school in Orleans Parish would be deemed in academic crisis, and therefore, eligible for takeover by the Recovery District…Act 35 achieved what Governor Davis, Leander Perez, and segregationists failed to do in 1960. Act 35, for all intents and purposes, allowed the State of Louisiana to seize control of the Orleans Parish school district…The takeover of the failing schools within Orleans Parish made the Recovery District the largest school district in the State of Louisiana. Had the threshold for the School Performance Score not been raised in Act 35, the Recovery District would have taken over only 13 schools and had a much reduced presence and influence in public education in New Orleans.

After the hurricane, district officials and Alvarez & Marsal issued a diktat permanently terminating the jobs and benefits of more than 7,500 teachers and other staff.

Sixteen years since Hurricane Katrina and the privatization of public schools in New Orleans, the debate about the consequences continues, as it surely will for many more years.

For those interested in New Orleans, I recommend this book, along with Raynard Sanders’ The Coup d’Etat of the New Orleans Public Schools: Money, Power, and the Illegal Takeover of a Public School System, Kristen Buras’ Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance. For a favorable view of the charter takeover, read Douglas Harris’s Charter School City: What the End of Traditional Public Schools in New Orleans Means for American Education.



I recently interviewed Raynard Sanders, a veteran educator in New Orleans, about his new book The Coup D’etat of the New Orleans Public Schools: Money, Power, and the Illegal of a Public School System.

You can watch it here.

He spoke at length about the blatant racism involved in the takeover and privatization of the city’s public schools. The state leaders (white) had been eager to find a reason to seize control of the district, which had a majority black school board. Ray says that the state commissioner cooked up a tale about missing millions of federal dollars. This same commissioner obtained an audit that showed there were no missing millions, but he continued to keep the story alive to undermine confidence in the elected school board. When the hurricane devastated the city, it was the perfect excuse for the white elite in the city and the state to grab control of the schools, their budget and their personnel. The hurricane became a rationale for firing the mostly African American staff, which was the backbone of the city’s black middle class, and replacing them with young white Teach for America recruits. It is a sobering interview.

Mercedes Schneider is a native of Louisiana and she has lived through its recent history. She understands the state and city’s long, deeply ingrained racism. In this post, where she reviews Douglas Harris’s recent book Charter School City, she points out that he is oblivious to that history and context. He describes the state takeover (by affluent white elites) of the district as “reform.” He is focused on test scores and other data. She refuses to connect today’s disempowerment of the city’s black community from the long history of white power, exercised by those who see no need to engage the community in discussions about their children.

It’s an excellent read.

On Wednesday February 10, I will host a Zoom discussion with Raynard Sanders about his new book, The Coup D’état of the New Orleans Public Schools: Money, Power, and the Illegal Takeover of a Public School System.

Sanders was the principal of a public school in New Orleans before the takeover of the district in 2005.

As you might guess from the title of his book, he considers the takeover to be illegal. It’s “results,” he contends are disastrous for the children of the district.

Listen in to hear the other side of the story.

Open the link and register to join the Zoom.

Jake Jacobs, an art teacher in New York City, a leader of New York BadAss Teachers, and a writer for The Progressive, read and reviewed Hillary Clinton’s policy briefing book in 2017 and reviewed the education section for Alternet. I missed his article, but it’s worth reading now to understand how advocates of privatization have inserted themselves into both political parties and use their vast wealth to control public policy and undermine public schools.

Jacobs points out that Laurene Powell Jobs “has been close with the Clintons since the late ’90s, also sat with Betsy DeVos on the board of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. She set up billionaire “roundtables” with Clinton’s campaign advisors through 2015 while donating millions to Priorities USA, Clinton’s main PAC.”

Jacobs notes:

Notes taken by Clinton aide Ann O’Leary were made in interviews with Powell Jobs and Bruce Reed, President of The Broad Foundation (and former chief of staff to Joe Biden). According to the notes, the “experts” were calling for new federal controls, more for-profit companies and more technology in public schools — but first on the menu was a bold remake of the teaching “profession…”

Powell Jobs suggests letting principals “pick their teams,” making teachers individually negotiate salary (every teacher—really?), expanding online education offerings like Khan Academy and making teaching universities “truly selective like TFA and Finland.” This comment is perplexing because while Finland has demanding teacher vetting and training, Teach for America places inexperienced teachers in classrooms after a seven-week summer crash course...

Tying campaign donations to a singular issue like expanding charter schools might in days past been seen as a prohibited quid-pro-quo. But in this cycle, Podesta, O’Leary and [Neera] Tanden [director of the Center for American Progress and President Biden’s nominee to lead the crucial Office of Management and Budget, which sets priorities for federal funding] all busily raised campaign money from the same billionaire education reformers with whom they were also talking policy specifics.

But they did more than talk. On June 20, 2015, O’Leary sent Podesta an email revealing the campaign adopted two of Powell Jobs’ suggestions, including “infusing best ideas from charter schools into our traditional public schools.” When Clinton announced this policy in a speech to teachers, however, it was the one line that drew boos.

“Donors want to hear where she stands” John Petry, a founder of both Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Success Academy, New York’s largest network of charter schools, told the New York Times.  Petry was explicit, declaring that he and his billionaire associates would instead put money into congressional, state and local races, behind candidates who favored a “more businesslike approach” to education, and tying teacher tenure to standardized test scores.
..

Not mentioning education would become important in the general election. This policy book shows a snapshot in time when wealthy donors were pushing Clinton’s and Jeb’s positions together, seeking more of the federal privatization begun under George W. Bush and continued by Obama...

This was predicted by John Podesta, who bragged just after the 2012 election about nullifying education policy differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Sitting next to Jeb Bush, Podesta proclaimed “ed reform” a bipartisan affair, telling donors “the Obama administration has made its key priorities clear. The Republicans are pretty much in the same place…this area is ripe for cooperation between the center-right and center-left”...

The 2014 policy book reveals some essential lessons about how education policy is crafted: in secret, with the input and influence of billionaire donors seeking more school privatization and testing—regardless of what party is in power. Even as the backlash against testing and the Common Core grew, Clinton’s advisors pushed her to embrace them. Clinton vacillated, then fell silent on K-12 policy, and as a result, education issues were largely left out of the election debate. Today, under Trump, privatization marches on worse than ever.


You may recall the iconic painting of little Ruby Bridges, a first-grader, who was the first African American student to enroll in a previously all-white segregated school in New Orleans. If you don’t, be sure to read this article, which tells what happened to the William Franz Public School.

Three scholars–Connie L. Schaffer, Martha Graham Viator, and Meg White–tell the story. The three are also the co-authors of a book titled: William Frantz Public School: A Story of Race, Resistance, Resilience, and Recovery in New Orleans, which I am reading now and expect to review.

They write:

If that building’s walls could talk, they certainly would tell the well-known story of its desegregation. But those same walls could tell another story, too. That story is about continued racism as well as efforts to dismantle and privatize public education in America over the past six decades.

When little Ruby Bridges enrolled in November 1960, she was escorted by four federal marshalls. Crowds of angry whites jeered day after day. Parents of the white children in the school withdrew their children and sent them mostly to private segregated schools.

Racism drove many white families from the neighborhoods near the school and other areas of New Orleans to abandon the city. White enrollment steadily declined throughout New Orleans’ public schools, dropping more than 50% between 1960 and 1980.

By 2005, only 3% of the students enrolled in the city’s public schools were white – far below average for midsize American cities.

Racially segregated, underfunded William Frantz Public School suffered through the imposition of standards and accountability in the 1990s, which did nothing to help the school, but did result in its being labeled a “failing” school. By 2005, the school board voted to close it.

In 2013, the school reopened as Akili Academy, a charter school directed by a private corporation. The authors wonder whether the public school system that Ruby Bridges dared to desegregate, overseen by an elected board, is “a relic of the past.”