It’s not who controls the schools that matters, it’s whether they care about equity New Orleans has had plenty of school choice in the last decade, but vulnerable students have been left behind
On President’s Day, a town hall was convened by the Orleans Parish School Board to update the community on its efforts to take nearly 50 schools back into its fold by July 2018. The schools had been taken over by the state-run Recovery School District in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The school superintendent talked about the unification process and whether the district incorporated community feedback, but the question that kept surfacing was about who really controlled the school district.
New Orleans still has over a year before that question needs to be decisively answered but perhaps more important for concerned parents is not the question of control, but one of equity.
Equity in education refers to the concept of fairness, meaning that students at different levels of learning are offered the resources they need to succeed. As an educational term, it’s not as well known as school autonomy — the extent to which a school leader can make decisions about his or her school— or the ability to enroll a child in a school of one’s liking, also known as choice. New Orleans has been branded a “choice system” primarily because it has maximized these two principles of school autonomy and choice more than any other district in the county, using charter schools, a voucher program and a computerized enrollment system. That bundle of choice is credited for the rise in test scores post-Hurricane Katrina.
But for all their choice, New Orleans schools are also known for allowing their most vulnerable students to fall through the cracks. Systemic failures allowed special needs students to not receive services, led to severe reductions in black teachers from 74 percent before the storm to 51 percent in 2012, in a city that’s 63 percent black, and inconsistent delivery of basic services like transportation, not to mention over-the-top disciplinary practices.
Join the conversation later on Andre Perry’s radio show, “Free College,” hosted Tuesdays onWBOK1230in New Orleans at 3pm Central/4pm Eastern504.260.9265.
It is the pursuit of equity in New Orleans post-Katrina that is credited for reducing the still-high suspension and expulsion rates as well as ensuring that special-needs students are educated. But lawsuits have pushed equity when independent schools were slow to act. For example, in 2010, the hate watch group the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other advocacy organizations filed a federal lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Education. The SPLC sought corrective action to their findings that students with special needs were denied services; schools didn’t apply consistent policies It’s not who controls the schools that matters, it’s whether they care about equity - The Hechinger Report: