Archives for posts with tag: Charter Schools

This is the story of the destruction of John McDonogh High School in New Orleans. Once a community hub, it was taken over in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Students, alumni, and community members have repeatedly appealed, demonstrated, and gone to the state board to seek the return of the school as a public school. They have been stymied and rebuffed again and again by State Superintendent John White and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. This post is a chronology of events at John McDonogh, from 2005 to the present. Those in the local community who remember what the school was continue to fight for its revival.

At one point, John White promised to consider a plan but then abruptly turned the school over to Steve Barr, who long ago created the Green Dot charter chain and then started a new charter chain called the Future is Now (FIN). Oprah filmed a show about Barr’s new charter school in New Orleans and promised to follow what she was sure would be the miraculous transformation of a “failing school” into a great charter school. Scores plummeted at John McDonogh under FIN, and the charter left town.

Students, parents, and alumni again returned to the state board, pleading for their school to be turned back into a public school. Again, they were rebuffed by a board stacked with charter-friendly, TFA-friendly members. The member who was most consequential in rejecting the community was Kira Orange-Jones, who was elected to the board while she was executive director for TFA in the state. The expansion of charter schools in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and elsewhere depends on the continuing flow of inexperienced TFA corps members who are happy to work 60-70 hours a week and leave after two or three years.

What you will see as you read this account is a remarkable number of overlapping relationships, conflicts of interests, and collusion among “reform” groups to disempower the local community and keep control far away from them.

The post reminds me of Kristen Buras’ study of New Orleans titled “Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance.” Buras documented the fact that New Orleans public schools were underfunded before the hurricane in 2005. Once the district was taken over by the state, money began to flow by the tens–maybe hundreds– of millions from the federal government and philanthropies. The more charters, the more outside money. Charters were never underfunded.

In the latest round over the future of John McDonogh High School, the Recovery School Board decided to turn it into a charter elementary school “focusing on engineering and exploration.” The friends and alumni of John Mac lost again. They plan to appeal the decision. What are their chances? The powerful in Louisiana do not want any public schools in New Orleans.

Good news–no, great news–from York City, Pennsylvania! Because of the district’s fiscal problems, exacerbated by state budget cuts (a designed crisis), the state appointed a receiver who wanted to turn the entire district over to a for-profit charter chain. A lower court upheld the state’s decision. However, an appeals court overturned the state takeover. This fortunate event reflects the change at the top, as Governor Tom Corbett was defeated by Tom Wolf. Corbett was bent on budget-cutting and privatization. Wolf is not. Corbett and his receiver were set to hand all the schools in York City over to Florida-based Charter Schools USA. That won’t happen.

Ending almost five months of uncertainty about who will control the York City School District, an appeals court in Harrisburg on Wednesday put a stop to the state’s push to appoint a receiver, someone who would’ve had almost all of the school board’s powers.
The order filed in Commonwealth Court throws out a judge’s previous decision appointing David Meckley as the district’s receiver, along with the appeals of that ruling. That comes after the attorneys for the state, district and other sides met earlier this week after a hearing and filed an application asking the court to end the case.
On Dec. 1, the Pennsylvania Department of Education filed a petition in the York County Court of Common Pleas asking a judge to appoint Meckley as the district’s receiver. As receiver, Meckley, the district’s state-appointed chief recovery officer, would’ve had all of the school board’s powers – with the exception of levying taxes.
The state had argued that the York City School Board did not follow Meckley’s instructions, including his request to turn the district’s buildings into charters. The judge granted the state’s petition to appoint Meckley as receiver at the end of the December, which the district almost immediately appealed.
Meckley resigned as chief recovery officer on March 13, saying he could not move the district forward as Gov. Tom Wolf was opposed to turning its buildings into charters.
Carol Saylor, who previously worked as a superintendent of a school district in Lancaster County and has almost 40 years of experience in education, has since been appointed to replace Meckley as chief recovery officer.