Sunday, December 22, 2013
The Memphis Hopson Hustle
Unless the public stops the corrupt capitulation by Memphis politicians to the Gates agenda for privatizing American schools, the children of Memphis will soon become the educational property of corporate charter schools that receive public money to subject the poorest children to their cultural and behavioral neutering programs. Here is a telling chunk of a piece on the developments in New Orleans, whose Recovery School District was the model used Tennessee's Tea Party hustlers:
. . . . Of the 89 public schools in New Orleans, only five will not be charters next fall, all under the local Orleans Parish School Board. The city already has by far the highest charter school enrollment in the country, with 85 percent of its public school students in the schools, which are publicly funded but run by largely independent boards.
The state's decision to go all-charter in New Orleans has implications for the rest of Louisiana. Dobard said the Recovery School District would run fewer and fewer schools in Louisiana, and would either close schools or do full-school charter transformations rather than trying to gradually phase out schools, because district officials have learned that doesn't work.
And it has implications for the rest of the country as well, because the system has become a national example. Tennessee and Michigan have created their own state takeover districts, and other states are considering it.
Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the conservative Fordham Institute think tank, marveled at the news. "Don't mess with success!" he said. "We will now have a full experiment" for others to learn from. "There will be important lessons -- once the charter sector is the main game in town."
The Recovery School District was created in Louisiana in 2003 to transform persistently failing schools. It started small in New Orleans, taking and chartering only five of the many eligible schools. However, Hurricane Katrina triggered a massive takeover: All but 17 of the city's schools were handed over to the state. And while the initial goal was to create charters, the system found itself having to open and run schools to meet demand. At its peak, the Recovery School District ran 34 schools directly.
The balance began to shift, however, as the charter community's capacity increased. This year, the system has five traditional schools and 59 charter schools. The Recovery School District also runs or oversees schools in Shreveport, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena and East Baton Rouge.
Dobard acknowledged that he had previously promised Carver and Reed juniors they would be able to graduate with their class in June 2015. However, he said administrators realized that gradually cutting down the schools grade by grade wasn't giving anyone a good experience. Reed was unable to field a football team this September, and the schools cannot offer a full range of classes.
Discussion has raged this month about the future of Sarah T. Reed, with community members pleading with the Orleans Parish School Board to find a way to take the school back and keep it open.
Still, "I don't anticipate much pushback, if any, because everyone is expecting it," Dobard said. "Everyone knows the transition was happening. The transition is just happening a year earlier."
Alumni and some community members have decried the loss of many of the city's historic high schools, which the Recovery School District has closed, merged or never reopened after the storm, including L.E. Rabouin, John F. Kennedy and Booker T. Washington.
Dobard emphasized that neither Reed nor Carter is disappearing. Two new charters are operating in eastern New Orleans under the Carver imprimatur: Carver Collegiate Academy and Carver Preparatory Academy. Design work will start this winter on the new Carver High School campus in the Desire area.
As for Reed, Dobard said there would be a school in that building in the long term. "We want to create a great high school at the Sarah T. Reed site," he said. No charter operator has been chosen; Dobard said he is open to talking with the School Board or anyone who has a plan. KIPP Renaissance will continue to use the Reed building temporarily next year.
At least one force behind the Reed protests still felt optimistic. "It's definitely a setback for us, for the community, but we're very hopeful for the future of Sarah T. Reed," said Minh Nguyen, director of the Vietnamese American Youth Leaders Association. He said they looked forward to developing a vision for the school with the Recovery School District and Orleans Parish School Board.
Petrilli, of the Fordham Institute, said the Recovery School District has succeeded in improving education in New Orleans, and also has made important strides toward guaranteeing fairness, including equal opportunity for students in special education to choose their schools. "These leaders in New Orleans have been very thoughtful about the infrastructure you need to make this kind of a system work well," he said.
He foresaw the same all-charter future for other school systems that are leaning heavily toward charters, including Detroit, Washington D.C. and possibly Kansas City. "New Orleans is getting there first, but I'm suspecting it won't be the only one" in five years, Petrilli said.
Taking the local perspective, advocate Karran Harper Royal thought the decisions showed "a total disrespect" for children in the Village de l'Est neighborhood of eastern New Orleans, where Reed is located. "This is a clear indication of how the Recovery School District in New Orleans is not listening to the public," she said. "I guess this is what you get when you don't have elected control of your school dollars."
The Recovery School District is nominally overseen by the partially elected, partially appointed state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. . . . .