Today there are 86 public schools in New Orleans, and more than half of them are charter schools. They are "loosely" supervised by 3 governing bodies: the Recovery School District, the Orleans Parish School Board, and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. But the point of charters is to do away with broad oversight and make the schools independent and autonomous. The Superintendant of the Recovery School District, Paul Vallas, is retiring after a couple of years at the post, continuing the revolving door of administrators. Strangely Charter School advocate Leslie Jacobs brags
that Vallas is a hero, because he did away with the need to have a powerful centralized superintendent. It's the modern model of make government ineffective, then argue that we need a smaller government, and it sounds an awful lot like what happened to the financial system over the past 8 years.
Today I read an alarming statistic. Total expenditures in 2006-2007 at New Orleans public schools ranged from $3,700 to $12,500 per pupil (source
). That's an $8,800 gap if my math is correct, and it is, because I didn't go to the $3,700 per pupil school. One reason, explains Greg Richmond
from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, is that "some schools are much more skillful at raising money than others." That might be accurate, but it makes me sick to my stomach, and reeks of injustice. My kids go to Lusher, a public charter school, though it is very hard to get your kid into the school, and the parents of children there tend to be wealthy, so you can imagine fundraising is quite a bit easier there.
And now the King of Mardi Gras, Rex, is getting involved
with helping charter schools. Aside from having school bands march during Carnival, Rex wouldn't help schools before Katrina because "if I tried to get involved, it would be a drop in the ocean" said one Rex spokesperson. With Katrina and the charter school movement, Rex says it saw an opportunity. Great. But the kids at all of our schools, especially the ones who don't have parents with the resources to get them into the wealthier/better performing charter schools, they are the ones that need the most help. Anyway, I'm sure Rex if feeling pretty great about finally being able to help out those sorts of people, the kind that attend, (gasp), public schools.
As the T-P wrote
: "the notion of Rex members getting involved with the city's public schools seemed as attractive to them as chowing down on Big Macs at the Rex queen's post-ball supper." So now will Rex ride to the ball in Laidlaw school buses and serve food from Sodexo, two of the many corporations making a fortune off of the New Orleans charter movement? In fact, I'd wager there are quite a few Rex members making a fortune because of the school takeover. Anyway, send me a commemorative Rex doubloon and I'll shut up, Mr. King of Carnival Sir. Pro Bono Publico
and all that.