Friday, June 01, 2007

Give Us Back Our Schools

There were 117 Public Schools in New Orleans prior to Katrina, and they were governed by the Orleans Parish School Board. As the 2006/2007 academic year comes to an end, there are now 53 schools, run by 21 entities, and 19% of these "public" schools have a selective admissions policy. The Orleans Parish School Board now runs only 5 schools. Most of the schools in New Orleans are governed by the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). The state legislature voted in November of 2005 to take 107 schools that were functioning at or below state average away from the Orleans Parish School Board, and give them to the newly formed Recover School District, which is theoretically governed by BESE. BESE is an 11 member board, partly elected, partly appointed. But only one of the 11-member board, Louella Givens, was elected by the citizens of New Orleans. The Orleans Parish School Board let much of this happen. We, the people who live here and are trying to rebuild the city, are working hard to redevelop a sense of community, and to do so we need quality neighborhood schools. I'm hoping that in the Fall of 2008 we can elect a new school board that will take back our schools and work to reduce the achievement gap, ensuring an excellent education for all of our children. This current system where charter school children receive more government funding than others, and where schools compete for the same limited resources, is crippling our community. I recommend an excellent brochure put out by the Center for Community Change entitled "Dismantling a Community."

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