School Choice & Charters

Obama, Bush Applaud New Orleans Schools Ahead of Katrina Anniversary

By Corey Mitchell — August 28, 2015 2 min read
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Cross-posted from the District Dossier blog.

U.S. presidents past and present are visiting New Orleans this week, marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and discussing the radical reshaping of public education in the city.

President Barack Obama was in town Thursday, praising the “real progress” in New Orleans’ schools.

Here are Obama’s remarks:

“Working together, we’ve transformed education in this city. Before the storm, New Orleans public schools were largely broken, leaving generations of low-income kids without a decent education. Today, thanks to parents and educators, school leaders, nonprofits, we’re seeing real gains in achievement, with new schools, more resources to retain and develop and support great teachers and principals. We have data that shows before the storm, the high school graduation rate was 54 percent. Today, it’s up to 73 percent. Before the storm, college enrollment was 37 percent. Today, it’s almost 60 percent. We still have a long way to go, but that is real progress. New Orleans is coming back better and stronger.”

Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, addressed a crowd on Friday at Warren Easton Charter High School, where he spoke on the storm’s first anniversary. Telling the crowd that Warren Easton has graduated 100 percent of its seniors for the past five years, Bush praised New Orleans as a ‘“beacon for school reform.”

Bush was president in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters broke through protective levies.

“Today we celebrate the resurgence of New Orleans’ schools. We honor the resilience of a great American city whose levies gave out but whose people never gave up. Out of the devastation of Katrina, you vowed to do more than just open the schools, you vowed to challenge the status quo. Long before the great flood, too many students in this city drifted from grade to grade without ever learning the skills needed for success. Parents lacked choices and the power to intervene. Principals and teachers lacked the authority to chart a more hopeful course,” Bush said during his speech.

“The decisions made in the dark hours after Katrina sparked a decade of reform ... Any attempt to undermine the accountability in our school system does a huge disservice to students who go to school in New Orleans.”

President Bill Clinton is scheduled to visit New Orleans on Saturday.

For a rich, nuanced look at how education in New Orleans has changed post-Katrina, read Education Week‘s special project: The Re-Education of New Orleans. And tonight, an Education Week report for the PBS NewsHour will also take a look at how the education system in the city has evolved in the past decade. Check your local listings for the timing of that report.


Photo: President Barack Obama, accompanied by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, second from right, greets residents in the the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans on Aug. 27. —Andrew Harnik/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.