School Choice & Charters

Public Schooling in New Orleans a Decade After Katrina

By Arianna Prothero — August 19, 2015 1 min read

August 29th marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history that also kicked off arguably one of the biggest experiments in modern-day public education.

As the flood waters receded, the state took control of the city’s failing schools, which was most of them, and started converting them into charters. Nearly 5,000 teachers were fired and a new class of educators moved in. Although many residents would trickle back over the years, thousands never returned to their city.

Today, New Orleans education system is made up almost entirely of independent charter schools, and school choice is a mandate for parents.

Education Week‘s special series for the 10th anniversary of Katrina, The Re-Education of New Orleans, examines the experiences of families trying to navigate this unorthodox system, as well as the stories of New Orleans’ diaspora, its veteran black teachers, and its growing class of college-bound graduates.

Below are a selection of photos from our project that was five months in the making. You can read, watch, and listen to the full series of stories here.

2015 graduates of Cohen College Prep celebrate their college acceptances. Swikar Patel/Education Week

A teacher and student at Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School in the Lower 9th Ward. Swikar Patel/Education Week

Harold Bailey’s sons are going to a new school this coming year after their previous one was shut down by the state. Swikar Patel/Education Week

Franiqueka Fortune was a 15-year-old high school junior when her family fled New Orleans ahead of Katrina and evacuated to Houston. She had a difficult time adjusting to a new city, school, and life after the storm. Marie D. De Jesus for Education Week

Billie Dolce was one of nearly 5,000 New Orleans teachers who were fired after the storm. Edmund Fountain for Education Week

Eighty-percent of the city was flooded after Hurricane Katrina and over 100 school buildings were damaged or ruined. Even today, some schools are still in temporary buildings and modulars waiting for permanent homes. Swikar Patel/Education Week

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.