I was doing some research on community control of public school systems and was reminded of an old television show. Sergeant Joe Friday was the quintessential cop of the fifties/sixties. On the show “Dragnet,” he only wanted the facts. Any other information was irrelevant. Once he had the facts in hand he could deduce pretty fast if a crime had taken place and who the criminals were. Case in point;
The New Orleans school system before Katrina, by most accounts was one of the worst in the country. The dropout rates were very high and the students that did graduate weren’t always as prepared for college as they could have been. The teachers union was one of the largest in the nation and addressing the problems of test scores and graduation rates, as best they could. The public school program itself however wasn’t exactly the best funded program and with the new push for increased accountability on what the students were actually achieving, stress was being felt by all.
Then, along came Katrina and everything changed. The physical buildings were left in ruins; the students themselves dispersed all over the country and the neighborhoods that the children lived in destroyed. And now two years later, as the neighborhoods in many areas still lie totally decimated; school is now back in session.
In what many have charged was a land grab, New Orleans is now the home of a new type of school; The Charter School. Before Katrina there were 123 public schools, now there are just four public schools in operation. All of the previous teachers were fired and their union contract shredded. Less than handful of the teachers has been hired back. Those willing to give 128% a USA today article says. Ones that want to make teaching their lives, 24/7.
Charter schools are run by independent contractors. Answer to their own rules and regulations and require a lot of funding. Federal funding in this case that seems to be falling out of the sky like Katrina rain. What many are calling it a public school system in reality it is more of a private school system? Will it work? No one is sure, too soon to tell. Is it in the best interest of the students to increase their students test sores by going all Charter? Not sure, too soon to tell. Does the community have control over their own school system? No.
The fact is that community has lost control over the education of their children should be a concern to us all. It’s a business now. Charter schools answer to shareholders. Not communities. It seems like communities are loosing control over a lot of issues; i.e. like those communities that sold their water systems to the corporations.
I guess knowing the facts, may help us one day, but in this case, the jury is still out and we are left to be optimistic, at best.