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New Orleans Superintendent Sure Is Having to “Emergency Revoke” a Lot of Charters…

December 14, 2018

It seems that Orleans Parish Schools superintendent Henderson Lewis has his hands full in dealing with New Orleans charter schools that find themselves in fiscal trouble.

As the November 13, 2018, New Orleans Lens reports, Lewis has decided to close three charter schools “in the past six months,” and he threatened to close two others “last year”:

Orleans Parish schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. will seek to revoke Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy’s charter mid-year after financial mismanagement and leadership instability, he told Orleans Parish School Board committee members at a Tuesday meeting. …

Last year, the district began the charter revocation process at two Einstein Charter Schools after the Einstein charter network refused to provide bus service to elementary students. … Einstein ultimately moved to hire a bus company. …

Lewis announced his intention to close Cypress Academy this week. The school had been taken over by the district in May after its former charter board made the surprise decision to close due to financial problems. And last month, Crescent Leadership Academy, the city’s only alternative program that served middle school students, abruptly closed.

The Lens article continues with Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) member Ben Kleban’s concern about OPSB ability to respond to “emergency situations” (i.e., OPSB takeover of charter schools in violation of their charters, including fiscal mismanagement/impropriety), particularly since such situations were not “anticipated in the board-approved budget.”

In May 2016, Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards, signed into law Act 91, which transfers oversight of charter schools run by the state back to their originating districts by July 01, 2019, a law that chiefly affects all-charter New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD) since New Orleans has by far the greatest concentration of Louisiana charter schools. At the time Act 91 became law, state-run, New Orleans RSD included 54 schools (all charter). As of December 2018, New Orleans RSD includes only 8 schools (all charter).

To say that Act 91 “returns” state-takeover schools “back” to the originating districts is not accurate because the schools taken over by the state were traditional public schools, and the schools being “returned” are charter schools, complete with their non-elected boards. However, in regards to the dissolving of state-run RSD, in this May 2016 blog post, I made the following observation:

As it stands, with ACT 91, there is the possibility for a charter school that loses its charter to once again become a traditional, community school. Unless the state mandates that a charter revoked from a school acting as its own LEA be converted into another charter (which defies the goal of ending state control in favor of district control), then the conversion of failed charters back into traditional, board-run schools remains possible.

Thus far, there is no state mandate that a charter school with a revoked charter must be replaced by another charter school– which means that Lewis and the OPSB board could go beyond trying to finance emergency charter revocation and instead include in the OPSB budget finances for stabilizing failed charter schools by reestablishing these unstable, charter fiscal shocks as OPSB-run, traditional schools.

Converting failed New Orleans charter schools back into traditional, community schools:

An idea whose time is here, Superintendent Lewis and OPSB board.

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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One Comment
  1. Lance Hill permalink

    Not a single piece of legislation since Hurricane Katrina has “returned” anything to the people of New Orleans. One obtains stolen goods only be reclaiming them. The future of the privatized schools in New Orleans will continue to be increased racial and class disparities, corruption and mismanagement, and endless “grand openings” followed be “grand closings.” The local media will white wash the crisis and history will eventually prove that the City That Forgot to Care was victimized twice: first by nature and then by humans.

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