STATE SENATOR CALLS FOR AN END TO CHARTER SCHOOL EXPERIMENT.
By C.C. Campbell-Rock
Are charter schools actually good? Or should they be closed? When Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signs Louisiana Senate Bill 95 into law this month, the Orleans Parish School Board will regain legislative power stripped from the elected body 15 years ago by legislators and state education officials. In New Orleans maybe we will get to answer the questions.
Once signed, SB 95 will allow a simple majority on the OPSB to determine whether to renew or cancel charter school contracts instead of the supermajority mandated in ACT 91.
“Senate Bill 95 is significant because it returns the statutory authority to override the superintendent’s recommendation for charter school contracts, says State Senator Joseph Bouie, the bill’s primary sponsor. The law is the first step in what Bouie hopes will be the fundamental reform of a privatized charter school system with no accountability or oversight.
“Now the new Board will have a real opportunity, Henderson will be gone, to take back the schools. When contacts come up for renewal, the School Board can decide to take back schools.”
NOLA-PS Superintendent Henderson Lewis, Jr. told reporters he wouldn’t renew his contract, which expires on June 30, 2022.
The former SUNO Chancellor has championed the return of the public schools to the elected Board since being elected to the Louisiana Legislature. “That’s what I’m here for. I took up the challenge,” he adds.
“Our state chose the experimental charter model. There is no way in the world we should have allowed our children to be experimented on. What they (government officials) did was illegal, unethical, immoral, and unconstitutional,” Bouie adds. They fired more than 7,000 teachers, spent over $7 billion, and miseducated and uneducated our children.”
Bouie maintains that the state lied about schools failing in New Orleans. He likened the takeover to the “Tuskegee Experiment,” where unsuspecting Blacks were the subjects of medical experiments. “We have outsourced the education of our children to private entities. We allowed others to educate our students. They’re doing worse than before.”
Bouie points out that only 25% of students were reading on grade level when the takeover occurred. “Today, 75% are not reading on grade level.,” he said, referring to data reported in Whose Choice? The New Orleans Experiment, a Stanford University study. Stanford
“When they changed the law in 2003, more than 50 school districts, statewide, we’re failing,” Bouie said. “New Orleans only had four failing schools, but the state only took over Orleans Parish public schools.”
States were allowed to open “public” charter schools under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 (NCLB) if schools didn’t meet the Adequate Yearly Progress standard after five years.
Louisiana didn’t even give Orleans Parish schools five years to meet the AYP standard. Leslie Jacobs, a BESE member, the self-described architect of education accountability, cooked up the New Orleans Public Schools takeover with then-Louisiana Education Secretary Cecil Picard.
“In 2005, when Katrina hit, state education officials changed the school definition for failing from a 60 to an 87,” Bouie explained. The state took over 100 public schools in New Orleans.
Jacobs admitted as much during an interview with the authors of Agents of Change:
“I went to the superintendent, Cecil Picard, in Lafayette,” [former Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) member Leslie] Jacobs told us, “and I said, ‘This is how we take the rest of the [New Orleans] schools over let’s change the definition of failing school and require BESE to take over the schools.'”
Bouie maintains that Jacobs and other education officials didn’t do what NCLB law directed. They didn’t collect data for 15 years. “Show me the data where charters are doing great. Stanford shows they lied and changed the way we measure student performance. If the charters are so good, why didn’t they replicate them in other areas of the state?”
A State Legislative Auditor Report ordered by Louisiana Education Superintendent Cade Brumley and released in March advised the NOLA-PS to collect data to determine what works and include them in charter contracts. Citing the autonomy of the charters, Superintendent Lewis says the NOLA-PS began collecting data in 2020. IDENTIFYING SCHOOL PRACTICES THAT IMPACT ACADEMIC OUTCOMES IN ORLEANS PARISH CHARTER SCHOOLS
Lewis presided over four schools and rebranded the system, NOLA-PS, but there’s no public school system in New Orleans. The so-called Unification law, ACT 91, passed by the Legislature in 2016, mandated the return of the charter schools to the Orleans Parish School Board. By July 2018.
However, Act 91 is not a unification law. It’s a farce. It returns most schools, except those that the RSD is still constructing and those run by BESE or the LDE. The charter schools remain fully autonomous. The OPSB has no say in any decisions made by charter operators. ACT 91 – pg 6
The taking of the Orleans Parish Public Schools was about money and race.
White legislators got Ann Duplessis, a former state senator, and State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, to sponsor Act 35 and Act 91. These Black lawmakers aided and abetted the White politicians in taking power and money from the predominately Black school system and put it in the hands of White charter school operators.
The top-performing charter schools were exempt from the One App enrollment system, and their student bodies are predominately White. Jacobs brought in young, white, uncertified aspiring teachers, under the auspices of Teach for America, to take the place of certified, experienced Black teachers. Her power grab has had a disparate effect on Black students.
“Among many findings, the research shows that New Orleans reforms have created a set of schools that are highly stratified by race, class, and educational advantage, operating in a hierarchy that provides very different types of schools and to different types of children. While some have a choice; others do not: both access and educational quality differ substantially, with the most vulnerable students least likely to experience the stability and supportive environments they need.,” the Stanford study found.
Erase The Board supports school board candidates and tracks money allocated to charter operators. The coalition holds a particular disdain for ACT 91 and State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, its sponsor. They’ve posted her campaign contribution on their Facebook page and Henderson Lewis’ annual salaries. Thus far, Lewis has received $2 million during his nearly seven-year tenure.
“Let’s put things into perspective. Seventy-eight schools in New Orleans are currently operated by 38 different Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) instead of directly run by OPSB/NOLAPS. Of those 38 CMOs, the combined salaries of 20 CEOs is $4,212,000.00,” the group posted on its website. Erase The Board
“The OPSB should replace Henderson with a superintendent who knows how to run schools to improve student performance,” Bouie advises. We need certified teachers and a certified curriculum. We need to end the experiment. And we should stop participating in it and directly run the schools.”