What Happened

HT: Dr. Lance Hill!

A blast from the past that states the truth about school “reform” in Orleans parish [emphasis---in blue---added; comments in italics]

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October 25, 2005, Tuesday

Charter schools urged for N.O. district; La. education chief cites system’s woes

BYLINE: By Steve Ritea, Staff writer

SECTION: NATIONAL; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 761 words

New Orleans should not open any public schools this academic year unless they become charter schools, state Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard said Monday, because of the district’s tenuous finances and what he called problems with the current leadership.

Picard also warned that national education associations and philanthropic groups willing to offer money and time to help rebuild the district could shrink if the district’s recent power struggles continue, a sentiment echoed by Mayor Ray Nagin and the leaders of some of those groups.

New Orleans interim Superintendent Ora Watson, who announced a plan to open four West Bank schools to students across the city Nov. 14, and School Board President Torin Sanders, who supports that effort, declined comment.

Watson’s plan flies in the face of a 4-2 board decision earlier this month to charter all 13 schools in Algiers and open as many as to eight of them in November. That plan was temporarily put on hold by a restraining order obtained Oct. 14 and set to expire this week if it is not extended.

Picard said the decision to charter those schools was “wise.”

“They don’t have any money to open four, five, six or eight schools,” he said. “I think at this point and time, until everyone can get their act together, I think that’s the best approach. I think you’re probably going to (also) see some charters on the east bank very soon.” [No one asked, or asks, why only charter schools got outside support. If you care about education, don't you care about educating kids and not just imposing free-market "methods"?]

Nagin agreed.

He said that in an Oct. 5 letter to Gov. Kathleen Blanco, he wrote, ” ‘Give me the charter schools I’ve been asking for — 20 charter schools, a citywide charter school district.’ ” [Nagin had been asking for charter schools? Since when?]

School Board Vice President Lourdes Moran and supporters of the charter effort have said it is primarily designed to take advantage of a $20.9 million federal grant to expand and create new charter schools. [The set-up---only privatized schools would get funding to open up post-Floods. How is that reform? Sounds like extortion to me.]

Alvarez & Marsal, the financial turnaround firm working with the city’s school system, has said the district can afford to open schools only if they win concessions from the federal government and if the state preserves the district’s current per-student financing levels: a questionable assumption, Picard and others have said. Other districts around the state and country have absorbed most of the district’s students and are clamoring for that money.

Reopening schools under those circumstances is a gamble, Picard said.

“Because of the current leadership and the financial situation, I don’t think they’re capable of doing that,” he said.

The decision by Watson and Sanders to announce a school reopening independent of the board’s majority decision to charter those same schools also is destructive, he said.

“Four members voted to do something else,” Picard said. “All that does is continue to send shock waves across the state and nation that they’re disjointed.” [There is never a hint of possibility that these school board members were thinking about anything other than messing up Picard et al's chance to privatize all of Orleans parish's schools. Some charter school supporters---very vague term but bear with me--- scream bloody murder when anyone raises objections to the way the reforms were imposed. The key word is "imposed"---there was no support at any level, local, state or federal, for traditional public schools to open. Suddenly, everyone is in a tizzy about how "bad" "all" the schools "are." In the past 40 years, dozens of things could have been done to improve schools. But only privatization got approval. Few people question why private industry is so hot to get its hands on federal education dollars. Millions and millions of dollars.]

That message is getting out to the district’s would-be benefactors and could scare them away, Nagin said.

I’ve been getting calls from (former CNN News Group executive and current Aspen Institute CEO) Walter Isaacson, the (Bill and Melinda) Gates Foundation and all of these folks. They said, ‘Look, you set up the right environment, we will fund, totally fund, brand-new schools for the city of New Orleans. But we don’t want to go through what you’ve been,’ ” he said. ”  ’All that struggle you’ve been having with that School Board. We don’t want to do that. We want to come in clean.’ “

Tulane University President Scott Cowen, chairman of the education committee of Nagin’s Bring Back New Orleans Commission, said the philanthropic Gates Foundation, named for Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, and the Broad Foundation, a nonprofit education reform group, will be active on that panel.

“I think if those foundations were asked to give money to the school system as it exists right now, it would be unlikely to be forthcoming,” he said. [No one questions why the schools have to get funding from private organizations like the Gates Foundation, which is not an advocate for public education. Why was it necessary, or the only way, to solicit from private funds interested not in school reform but transferring the management of schools, and all the state and federal fuinds they receive, into private hands.]

Isaacson, a New Orleans native, said the Aspen Institute is “willing to come in if we can all rise above politics.” He also said the board has “shown some good leadership in wanting some charters.” [Privatization is a sign of "good leadership"? The current privatization movement is not "above politics." It's all about politics because few if any in this movement talk about pedagogy, child development, the latest in research on brain development and learning. No talk of best practices. Have you seen that phrase used anywhere? Challenge me. I want to be wrong on this one.]

Henry Duvall, a spokesman for the Council of the Great City Schools, which has already begun helping the district assess the conditions of some schools, said the board and the district superintendent need to be working in tandem. Otherwise, “you’re going to have disarray,” he said, which is “a turnoff” to organizations willing to help.

“I can’t disagree with them,” Picard said. “They said, ‘We’re not going to come in and do it under the auspices of the present governance.’ ” [The juxtaposition of these quotes implies that the only way to avoid disarray is for OPSB to agree to whatever the superintendent says. Was OPSB a great board? No. Were the schools overall in great condition? No, no matter what definition of "condition" you use. Does that mean that privatization was the only alternative? No. Did these organizations geared toward privatization have to be appealed to? No. Was there any effort by anyone on the state level to find reforms or help other than privatization? No. And you can see that there was and is no plan other than privatizing this urban district---Pastorek is all over the place about teachers and the classroom and actual students and their learning and whether suburban districts have to accept whatever he says and that is because there is no plan, no road map. When the problem is reduced to a nail, only hammers are the solution.]

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Steve Ritea can be reached at sritea@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3396.

About G Bitch

A mad black woman in New Orleans.
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