Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Leslie Jacobs And Privatizing Our Schools

The more I learn about Leslie Jacobs, the more I dislike her and detest her policies.

Ms. Jacobs comes from one of the wealthiest families in America, the Rosenthals. They made their money in the insurance industry, which already puts her at odds with me post Katrina. After 20 years working for and then running her family's insurance business, she first worked on the Orleans Parish School Board and then BESE (Louisiana Board of Elementary & Secondary Education) where she is currently vice-president. Back in April she responded to my T-P opinion piece about charter schools widening the achievement gap with the Recovery School District becoming a dumping ground. She claimed that charter schools are not elite and do not represent a system of "haves" and "have nots."

Ms. Jacobs is friends with Shenita Johnson Garrard, the head of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). BESE hired NACSA to decide who gets charter schools in New Orleans. National charter groups like Edison and Mosaica get NACSA's approval because they fund NACSA. Neighborhood groups who want to run our neighborhood schools only get permission if they partner with these national for-profit firms. Recently Leslie Jacobs and Shenita Johnson Garrard addressed the Chicago Schools Policy Luncheon Series. The full text can be seen here. Their speech is full of lies. For example, Ms. Jacobs claims there was no outrage in 2003 when the valedictorian at Fortier High School failed her math exit exam five times and received an 11 on her ACT. I remember there was in fact plenty of outrage. She also claims that government keeps failing us and so the answer is to privatize education, and that charter schools have hot meals and cap enrollment, making them better than the Recovery School District. And yet she is on the BESE board, the same one that gave control of our schools in New Orleans to the RSD. It makes me think there is an effort to make the RSD schools awful so that the charter schools look better than they are.


Anonymous Howie Luvzus said...

I agree with you're take on the RSD schools. Their scores were low.

Would it be possible for all schools to go charter? It seems to me that if we have some charter and others not, we will have a justice issue.

What if they all become charter?

4:30 PM  
Blogger Michael Homan said...

Charter schools were started to find alternative ways to educate children who were failing due to learning and behavioral problems. But here in New Orleans, charter schools are running regular curriculums. If all the schools were charters, it would be difficult to hold them accountable. I prefer the idea of neighborhood schools, where children go to quality schools in their neighborhood. That builds community.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous bullet said...

Wouldn't that solution (neighborhood schools) lead to another "haves/nots" situation? Some neighborhoods having more dedicated parents and volunteers and so having better playgrounds/facilities? Some having wealthier families who can hire away the best teachers?

I agree that having kids go to school in their neighborhood is important. So many benefits from and to the community that I won't get into. But actually having the neighborhood groups run individual schools can still result in an imbalance between those who have and those who don't.

That being said: Anything that takes power away from the school board is fine by me. Those people have been keeping New Orleans dumb for far too long. At least for the next several years we'll have kids who know that it's different elsewhwere and it's not all their fault. Maybe they can change the system; we certainly haven't.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Karen said...


How about if the Citizens take control of the School Board. That seems like a solution to me.

It is an elected position. We know plenty of people who should run, Mr. Homan for example

4:38 PM  
Blogger mominem said...

In Orleans Parish pre-K we had virtual charter schools, with magnet schools and their simulacrum skimming the few qualified students in The Orleans Parish School System and dumping the rest into a virtual holding pattern.

I don't know the answer. I do know that spending more money doing the same old things is doomed to failure.

12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your post illustrates the problem succinctly. "The few qualified students."

Why were there only a 'few qualified students in the first place?'

And do you blame the 'few qualified students' for seeking a place where they can excel?

Sounds like the problem with the other students existed pre-charter.

I just don't understand those who think if those 'few qualified students' went back into the regular schools (which they wouldn't), but if they did, that would solve all the problems.

The 'few qualified students' and their families can't lift the massive amount of unqualified students and their parents.

That's a social issue that schools can only deal with partially. It will take much more than schools.

I don't have the answers though, if I did I would share them, but I do have a proposal. Let's leave the excelling schools alone and concentrate our full efforts on improving the other schools.

Isn't it better to have the 'few qualified students' get a good education than to have no one get one?

4:10 PM  
Anonymous GB said...

One past and present problem is believing that only a small percentage of children is capable of or deserves an education. Far too often, pre- and post-devastation, "qualified students" had a lot to do with what color you were and how much the houses in your neighborhood cost.

Neighborhood schools sound great, except when some of those neighborhoods are segregated, deprived, crime-ridden, neglected, etc. We had neighborhood schools pre-storm/flood. There has to be more to it than neighborhood. Do we as citizens of the same country, state, city believe in education for all? Do we believe that education is worth it even if the kids in question do not go to Harvard or Penn State? Or do we believe that only a "few qualified students" are deserving?

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But anyone who wants to go to a charter school can. Admissions at nearly all of them are based on a lottery system, except for the ones that happened to be magnet schools before Katrina. (Which is actually a NOLA-unique situation in all of the US--having non-lottery charters.)

Therefore, if, as you assert, charter schools are widening the achievement gap, which I infer indicates that charter school students are showing higher achievement than RSD school students, then why wouldn't it be better for all public school students to attend charters with proven ability? And if that is too extreme, and I understand completely if it is, why wouldn't we let the charter schools develop the methods that do work, under more flexible conditions, and then transport the techniques to the traditional RSD public schools?

Based on your comments, I feel like you're conflating the issues of public charter schools and private school vouchers. Or perhaps failing to differentiate between lottery-based admissions (which is the method at ~95 percent, according to a TP article published within the last 6 months) and aptitude-based admissions.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Michael Homan said...

The reality is more complicated than "anyone who wants to go to a charter school can." The most important criteria for admittance is to be lucky enough to have a parent who is intelligent enough and devoted enough to navigate the system. Students continue to show up at charter schools during the first week of school, often six months after the lottery, and then of course they are put in the worst of the worse RSD schools, the only ones with openings left. Instead of equal chances for students, it sets up a hierarchy, where students with parents with resources get the better schools and better teachers and better principals and better facilities (such as my kids at Lusher) and students with non engaged parents wind up in the RSD. By the way, that recent documentary about high school students in New Orleans was fantastic. Did anyone see it?

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly you wish to sacrifice the good for the perfect. If you admit that the new "system" is providing "better schools and better teachers and better principals and better facilities (such as [your] kids at Lusher)," then why wouldn't our objective be to keep the existing charters while trying to spread their success to the children of less resourceful parents? Is all of this clamor really about an easier charter school admissions process, supposed by you to be unfairly complex?

5:15 PM  
Blogger Michael Homan said...

I'm not saying close Lusher. Leave it alone, it seems to be working OK, not great, but OK. I'm saying it sucks for the thousands of kids who are in the worst performing schools. I went to a public school system where all the schools were good, not just a few. The key was there was parental involvement in all the schools. In the current NOLA model, some schools get tons of parental involvement, most none at all. I'm an advocate of neighborhood schools, not city wide access. I live in Mid-City, where there are all sorts of varieties, as far as income, race, education, parental involvement, etc. So a neighborhood school would be fantastic.

5:30 PM  

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