Re-Creating Public Education in New Orleans
In the case of posthurricane New Orleans, American school planners will be as close as they have ever come to a “green field” opportunity: A large public education system will need to be built from scratch. It seems impossible to put the pre-existing New Orleans public school system together again. Even if that were possible, doing so would be misguided. The system in place before Hurricane Katrina was not built to cope with the problems facing New Orleans now.
No doubt, the U.S. Department of Education and national philanthropic foundations will want to do all they can to help. And almost any well-intentioned act will be welcome. But the circumstances call for a coherent strategy, not just a round of do-gooding.
Although last year in New Orleans there were 60,000 children in district-run schools and 50,000 in parochial schools, no one knows how many of those students will return, or where they will settle, or when. Nobody knows whether the parochial schools will re-emerge, able to serve a high proportion of the city’s children. Today, most school buildings are uninhabitable, many damaged beyond repair. Moreover, the neighborhoods that once had the largest numbers of students have lost much of their housing. Teachers and administrators...
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