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UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See prorev.com for full contents of our site

February 8, 2010

NEW ORLEANS CHARTER SCHOOLS: CAPITALIZING ON DISASTER

Jessica Schiller, Change - Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, including its schools. Children and their families suffered through, and are now back at school -- but they face a new school system, one dominated by the private sector. Without adequate funding from the federal and state governments, the city had little choice but to turn over its system to non-profits and for-profit companies. Now, New Orleans has the largest number of charter schools of any city in the country.

In spite of the enthusiasm for the charters, they are riddled with problems. Many exclude special education students and are physically inaccessible to the majority of students in the city, leaving them to the regular public schools or poorly-functioning charters. Moreover, low-income families spend much of their time getting their homes and neighborhoods back together, and do not have the time to navigate the school choices, leaving the school system with a few strong schools and still many poorly performing schools.

Arne Duncan wants us to see New Orleans as a model. A city largely dedicated to privately-run charter schools. Race to the Top funds require states to support charter growth, even though there is no research confirming that charter schools are better than public schools. Katrina has enabled private operators to take advantage of what Ken Saltman has called "capitalizing on disaster." Katrina wiped out the school system of New Orleans, and created an opportunity for private operators to come in and remake the schools without rebuilding or consulting the communities that the schools would serve. Indeed, these schools were remade as an essentially privately-run system. . .

Some families are benefiting from the new schools, most are not. The charter operators, on the other hand, can open up shop easily and get public funds to run their schools. This does not seem like a model of urban school systems. We need high quality schools for all children, not a bunch of private operators who create good schools for some.


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