Saturday, October 29, 2005

Rise Of The Charters: The New Orleans Story

There will be 20 new public charter schools opening soon in the New Orleans area. The Times-Picayune refers to the plan as the "balkanization" of the school system:
In a move that could signal the eventual balkanization of much of the New Orleans public school system, the board unanimously approved charter applications for 20 district schools, including seven on the east bank and another 13 on the west bank that, although previously approved, had been blocked by a court order.

The decision comes after weeks of bitter feuding over how to reopen the few schools that remain undamaged by Hurricane Katrina and amid dismal financial projections from district. Friday's decision was met with thundering applause from hundreds of parents and students who packed the City Council chambers.

In an abrupt about-face, board President Torin Sanders agreed to support all of the charter proposals, despite earlier opposition and charges that the proposal was racist as recently as last week.

Sanders said his sudden change of heart came after the board adopted a resolution Friday that would require 20 percent of the student body at each school be comprised of students on free and reduced-price lunch programs.
I find board member Torin Sanders charge that charter schools are "racist" to be both ridiculous and divisive. For all intents and purposes, the system was already "balkanized" with a large number of middle class and affluent white parents sending their offspring to private schools.

Before Hurricane Katrina struck, the New Orleans public school system was troubled by crime and poor academic performance. If the school system is to effectively serve students and the community, then clearly it would not be either's interest to rebuild them as they were.

Increasing the number of charter schools may be part of the solution.
See the latest edition of The Carnival Of Education here, and our latest posts over there.