Eleven years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and helped set in motion the division of the city’s public schools into two systems, the Orleans Parish school board last week signed off on a plan that will reunite those schools under its control.
The board had most of the public schools taken away by the state after Katrina, following years of poor academic performance and financial mismanagement. State lawmakers this spring cleared the way for it to reclaim all the schools—most of them independent charters—within three years.
The board now oversees about two dozen schools, about half as many as the Recovery School District, the entity the state set up to take over failing schools.
The 72-page document approved last week is based on the philosophy that the dozens of charter schools that have emerged in New Orleans since the storm must be able to keep their autonomy, yet also be held accountable to the local board. It also pledges that schools will adhere to high academic standards and that officials will distribute resources equitably, among other goals. Finally, it reflects what dozens of educators, community members, and parents said during public meetings this summer should be the board’s priorities moving forward: They support choice but are increasingly concerned with the quality of available choices.
The plan estimates that some $500 million annually will be available to support the unified system. But it says only $20 million of that will be used to support a central office, meaning officials must downsize the current central office.
A version of this article appeared in the September 07, 2016 edition of Education Week as New Orleans School Board Approves Plan to Reunify System