I highly recommend this big Washington Post article on the end of conventional public schools in New Orleans. Thanks to Katrina, recovery money and Louisiana politics, the schools have been turned over to charter school operators.
The story is about winners and losers. On the surface, the overall numbers look better on student test scores. But the Katrina diaspora of poor families from New Orleans makes it impossible to neatly compare overall scores today with pre-Katrina. Black school employees were fired wholesale. Many have been replaced by young, white Teach for America recruits.
But then this passage is stunning in its honesty:
White students disproportionately attend the best charter schools, while the worst are almost exclusively populated by African American students. Activists in New Orleans joined with others in Detroit and Newark last month to file a federal civil rights complaint, alleging that the city’s best-performing schools have admissions policies that exclude African American children. Those schools are overseen by the separate Orleans Parish School Board, and they don’t participate in OneApp, the city’s centralized school enrollment lottery.
John White, the state’s superintendent of education, agreed that access to the best schools is not equal in New Orleans, but he said the state is prevented by law from interfering with the Orleans Parish School Board’s operations.
“The claim that there’s an imbalance is right on the money,” White said. “The idea that it’s associated with privilege and high outcomes is right on the money.”
Stan Smith, acting superintendent of the Orleans Parish schools, said his district’s charter schools have agreed to participate in the OneApp when their contracts are renewed, in two to 10 years from now.
So black children might have equal access to the best schools in 10 years? In 1954, it would have been unthinkable that the U.S. Supreme Court would countenance such as this. But it is 2014. And we have no less than Chief Justice John Roberts telling us that it is a post-racial world and no correctives are necessary any longer.
The Walton Family Foundation is a big player in New Orleans, of course.