Charter Schools Corporate Reformers Education Industry Fraud New Orleans Privatization Resistance

New Orleans: The Last Public School Closes, Despite Objections of Parents and Students and Alumni

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The Orleans Parish School Board closed the last public school in New Orleans, in a meeting room filled with protesting parents, students and alumni of McDonough 35. New Orleans is now the first city in the United States without a public school. The board disregarded the protesters.

Why do parents and students fight for schools that have been labeled “failing” by authorities? To find out, read Eve Ewing’s book “Ghosts in the Schoolyard,” about Rahm Emanuel’s brutal closure of 50 public schools in a single day. There too, parents, students, and teachers were disregarded. They were fighting for values that Reformers don’t understand: tradition, community, history, relations between families and schools, a spirit of connectedness that binds past to present. These are values that Reformers are determined to stamp out.

New Orleans is the Crown Jewel of “Reform,” even though 40 percent of its charter schools have been labeled either D or F by the state, and every one of these schools is segregated. On the much treasured measure of test scores, New Orleans ranks below the state average, in a state that is one of the lowest performing in the nation (and whose ranking on NAEP dropped in 2017). For more than a decade, Louisiana has been controlled by Reformers. Its leader currently is John White. The only jurisdiction in the nation that has worse test scores than Louisiana is Puerto Rico. And New Orleans is below the state average. What a triumph for Reform (not)!

Here is the story of another Reform takeover:

The Orleans Parish School Board has chosen InspireNOLA Charter Schools as the future operator of McDonogh 35 Senior High School, positioning New Orleans to be the nation’s first major city with an all-charter school district.

At the board’s November meeting Thursday, Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. recommended and received approval for InspireNOLA’s application to start a new high school starting in August 2019. It was unclear last month if the operator’s application was designed for McDonogh 35, but on Thursday (Dec. 20) the new school was added to the OneApp school selection system as McDonogh 35 College Preparatory High School.

The school board’s charter agreement with InspireNOLA requires the school to keep its name, school colors and mascot, the Roneagle.

McDonogh 35 was founded in 1917 as the first public high school in Louisiana for black children. Although the former magnet school was once considered a “School of Academic Achievement” by the Louisiana Department of Education, its academic ranking has declined since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The “D”-rated school now teaches 451 students in the St. Bernard area, according to state data.

The Orleans Parish School Board is trying to revive struggling schools such as McDonogh 35 by either closing them or turning their operations over to charters. The school district currently manages McDonogh 35 directly, but the board voted Thursday night to award a “short-term operator” contract to InspireNOLA to teach the school’s remaining 10th, 11th and 12th graders starting in August 2019.

A copy of the new contract wasn’t immediately available Thursday, but the district’s plan is to have InspireNOLA phase out the direct-run school until all current students have either graduated or transferred elsewhere within the next two school years.

The short-term contract, district sources say, essentially creates two schools on the McDonogh 35 campus: one for current students and a new school for freshmen who enroll in August. This implies McDonogh 35 will receive two individual school performance scores from the Louisiana Department of Education when its 2019 freshmen are graded in November 2020…

More than 100 parents, students and advocates weighed in on the district’s actions for more than two hours during the public comment period at Thursday’s meeting. Dozens of attendees had to stand.

A representative from New Schools for New Orleans, an InspireNOLA administrator, and an Edna Karr High sophomore were among the handful of residents who struggled to speak in favor of InspireNOLA as opponents shouted over them. Those who were against chartering every school in the city included state Rep. Joseph Bouie, D-New Orleans, McDonogh 35 alumni and dozens of education advocates from Louisiana and out of state…

Gertrude Ivory, president of McDonogh 35’s alumni group, told the school board its “experiment” with charters is “failing” the city’s families. McDonogh 35 alumna Yvette Alexis said the school’s performance scores have dropped because the district “pulled resources” and “didn’t fill vacancies.” Alexis’s claims came after district employees told board members Tuesday the school is projected to have a $145,000 deficit in fiscal year 2019.

Tomme Denney, a McDonogh 35 senior and student ambassador, asked the school board to continue running his school. He has witnessed “a vast amount of growth” among students in this year alone, he said.

“Stop the decline of the school, which has been used to justify giving the school a private operator,” Denney said.

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