Louisiana law institutionalizes charter schools
On May 12, Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed Act 91 into law, making privately-owned charter schools a permanent feature of public education in the state.
New Orleans has been in the national spotlight for the privatization of education since 2005, when the hurricane-devastated city initiated the first all-charter district in the United States. The mechanism utilized to destroy the public schools was the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) formed in 2003 by Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Blanco folded the public school system into the state-controlled RSD. This playbook was developed nationally by the Broad Foundation and was largely implemented in Louisiana by Paul Pastorek, now a co-executive director of the Foundation's education work. Pastorek is presently working with Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder in similar efforts to charterize the Detroit Public Schools.
In the media, both local and nationally, Act 91 is being trumpeted as a successful return of RSD schools to "local control." In the sense of local democratic control or public education, it is nothing of the sort. Across the US, “local control” of schools has become a code word for bringing unions and local businessmen on board the national privatization program and providing them a lucrative niche in the billion-dollar education industry.
The new law means that 54 New Orleans charter schools will gradually move back to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), with similar provisions affecting 9 charters in Baton Rouge and 1 in Caddo Parish. Not only will they remain as charter schools, their operators have been handed control over almost every aspect of education indefinitely by state law. This control includes "school programing, curriculum, instruction, materials and texts, yearly school calendars and daily schedules, hiring and firing of personnel, employee performance management and evaluation, terms and conditions of employment, teacher or administrator certification, salaries and benefits, retirement, collective bargaining, budgeting, purchasing, procurement, and contracting for services other than capital repairs and facilities construction."
School boards will retain the right to determine when new schools will be opened or closed. However, the new law stipulates that charters will be given the right to petition to become a local education agency (LEA) should they want to assume these rights as well.
In charge of this “transition” is a 13-member board, eight members of which are CEOs of charter school companies. The board also includes the superintendents of both the RSD and the OPSB. The function of the board is to assure that the ability of the charters to profit off of public education is not impeded in the transition.
The OPSB, itself fully committed to the charterization of public schools in New Orleans, praised the bill. Speaking for those cashing-in with charter operations and other edubusinesses, OPSB superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. (a founder of an Algiers district charter school) told the media, “The Louisiana law institutionalizes charter schools - World Socialist Web Site: