Louisiana RSD Charters Victim of a “Legislative Raid”?
We have an interesting situation in Louisiana regarding the now-permanent Recovery School District (RSD):
HB 166 also states, “all rights and responsibilities of ownership regarding all land, buildings, facilities, and other property that are part of the school being transferred shall also be returned to the local public school board.”
RSD was never meant to be permanent. Even pro-charter Cowen Institute declared as much in its 2003-2011 report:
Intended as a mechanism for restructuring and reform, the RSD was never meant to be a permanent part of the public school governance landscape in New Orleans. Instead, the RSD was meant to take control of and turn around chronically failing schools for an initial period of five years. After that time, and assuming adequate school improvement, schools would be released from the jurisdiction of the RSD and returned to their local school board.
In 2010, then-state superintendent Paul Pastorek came up with the idea to allow “high performing” schools to remain in RSD. The state board (BESE) passed this plan in December 2010. The plan also included the possibility of schools leaving RSD if they were still “failing” after five years. However, such transfer would require BESE approval.
In short, Pastorek’s proposal virtually guaranteed RSD stability and permanence in the Louisiana education landscape and provided the means for a charter-friendly BESE to create a 100-percent RSD New Orleans charter district, consisting of 73 schools in 2014-15.
HB 166 threatens to diminish the state’s power over schools that are determined as “no longer designated as a failing school”– though the language of HB 166 does not include the specifics on such designation.
The author of the bill, Representative Joseph Bouie, believes this number to be now at 46 schools, as noted in a May 6, 3015, nola.com article:
“We have 46 schools that should be back under the local board,” said HB 166’s sponsor, Rep. Joseph Bouie, D-New Orleans. The charter boards would continue to run the schools, but they would be overseen by the local authority, not the state.
Charter boards “being overseen by the local authority” could mean a greater possibility that these schools are thoroughly and regularly monitored and audited– something that has yet to happen in comprehensive, systemic fashion to those “autonomous” New Orleans charters.
HB 166 still has to pass the House, and, if it survives the House, then the Senate. However, the very fact that the bill made it out of the House ed committee (as nola.com notes) “despite opposition from committee chair Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, the Council for a Better Louisiana, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools and former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La” is a blow to the New Orleans Charter Miracle– and one close on the heels of an uncharacteristic, “cautionary” change in the promoted public image of said Charter Miracle.
Indeed, in the May 10, 2015, Advocate op/eds, the Advocate editorial staff (the presumed author of the op/ed) has decided that returning schools to local districts amounts to “a legislative raid”– an interesting choice of words since the November 2005 state takeover of approximately 100 Orleans Parish schools via Act 35 in the throes of post-Hurricane-Katrina community disruption surely would have qualified as more of a “legislative raid.”
The Advocate is using the “disclaimer” tactic to note that, sure, RSD “hasn’t been a cure-all for what ails public education. In fact, a number of the schools in RSD’s control haven’t met expectations” but that sending schools back to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) “has all the makings of a shotgun marriage.”
The Advocate also maintains:
Let’s face it: If the Orleans Parish school system had created a climate of innovation, then charter schools would be flocking to the system of their own choice.
Sooo, it’s the charter schools that should have choice in 2015, but the 2005, legislated state takeover of OPSB schools was okay without a shred of community choice….
Whether a shotgun wedding is appropriate must depend upon the year– and upon who is controlling the shotgun.
But let’s examine the idea that if OPSB were “creating a climate of innovation,” then charter schools would “flock” there.
Nevertheless, the Advocate staff resort to the stale story of “the tragic years when OPSB was a hallmark for educational failure” and insist that “support of the bill is a way to strike back at the reform movement that pushed for accountability.”
The reform movement that pushed for accountability?
I don’t think so. In fact, I think that New Orleans charter proponents are still in shock over the Education Research Alliance of New Orleans (ERA) research report, released in March 2015, that indicated among its findings that in 2012, some New Orleans principals (both within RSD and in the few remaining Orleans Parish-run schools) admitted to manipulating student selection of students into their schools.
I guess it’s okay if that news gets out regarding OPSB charters, but when it comes to the RSD image, well, ERA just was not supposed to let that ugly truth about “choice” slip.
But the real scare for those wishing to protect the RSD charter image involves what might still emerge from ERA, which is planning a ten-year, post-Katrina research shindig to occur from June 18 to 20, 2015, immediately preceding the National Charter Schools Conference scheduled for June 21-24, 2015, and hosted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
The info that emerges from ERA during its conference could indeed prompt a more forceful call for true RSD charter accountability.
But back to Bouie’s HB 166:
Whether HB 166 passes or not, the fact that such legislation even found its way past the House ed committee and before the full House for a vote is just one more indication that the Golden Child status enjoyed for the past decade by privatization-factory New Orleans RSD might be on its way out.
And seeing the likes of the Advocate scrambling on Mothers Day to Save the RSD and worrying that HB 166 “might get traction” makes me smile.
I call it my accountability smile.
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.
She also has her second book available on pre-order, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, due for publication June 12, 2015.