Given the opportunity to take back control of Orleans Parish schools and assume the lead in giving our kids the best education that’ll keep them out of prison, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) thought about it and said, nah I think we’re good.
Actually, they didn’t just say it. They held a meeting. They put it in a formal resolution. So when it came time for the Senate to finally hear Sen. Joe Bouie’s bill (SB404), it failed. By 6 votes. The dissenting Senators were like, if the OPSB doesn’t want the responsibility, then why would we force it on them?
That raises a question: why doesn’t the OPSB want the responsibility? Maybe it has something to do with the present setup.
Charter schools are the gentrification of education
As it stands now, the OPSB is a conduit for state education dollars. It’s a golden setup. Any aspiring charter organization wanting to access state money and open a school has to get the OPSB’s approval. Once that happens, the OPSB plays a minimal role.
Once established, the charter gets to set its own salaries, hire its own teachers and principals, and establish its own curriculum. The OPSB then relegates itself to monitoring their performance via test scores. It also decides if the school will be reapproved when the contract is up. That’s called eliminating mostly anything to do with the day-to-day responsibility of educating our kids while still getting paid. Charter schools are the gentrification of education.
How much you might ask. Like $300,000 a year if you happen to be the incoming superintendent of the OPSB. That’s a raise of almost a $100,000 over the outgoing superintendent. And $15,000 more than the Dept of Education superintendent who oversees the whole state. There’s also a $20,000 a year bonus if certain incentives are met. The OPSB cited cost of living increases to justify the salary.
Sen. Bouie has been trying to break up this arrangement for years. The central theme of his many bills has been holding the elected school board members accountable for the schools in their districts. As it stands now, the public can’t really hold them accountable for our failing schools because the charters set and run their own shows.
Many people would probably say what difference would it make. When the OPSB ran the schools, they were just as bad, in general, as they are now. But the whole charter reform movement was supposed to be about improving schools. This ain’t that!
Going forward, the goal shouldn’t just be returning the schools to the OPSB. There should also be public involvement to hold the OPSB accountable once that does happen. Our schools won’t improve with a management change alone. It needs an engaged public to go along with it.
Of course, this will all have to wait until next legislative session. With this session ending in about 2 weeks, there will probably be little support for reconsidering Sen. Bouie’s bills. Until then, watch the OPSB members of your districts. Attend a meeting. Let your voice be heard. That’s the first step towards invoking true reform. Because now, charter schools are the gentrification of education.