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OPSB Nullifies Claims It’s Ready For Return Of Schools



OPSB's motto should be Disunion, Injustice, No Confidence

OPSB’s motto should be Disunion, Injustice, No Confidence

In its first full meeting of 2013, the Orleans Parish School Board sent a clear message to the community: You would be insane to return schools to our control.

Over the past year, advocates for a return to local control have sought to portray OPSB as a model of bureaucratic rehabilitation. They pointed to the board’s clean financials, shiny A+ bond rating, and the high academic performance of their handful of schools (while conveniently neglecting to mention their selective-admissions policies) as evidence of OPSB’s turnaround. The basic message of OPSB proponents, often served up with a side of schmaltzy democratic ideals, has been: “All we are saying, is give OPSB a chance.”

On Tuesday night, that message crashed headlong into the ego of OPSB President Ira Thomas, in one of the more entertaining – and at times, painfully awkward – board meetings in recent memory. Admittedly, the outcome of the meeting was less than disastrous: Thomas’ plans to exact revenge on Stan Smith and Kathy Padian died an embarrassing death, thanks to Sarah Usdin’s uncompromising refusal to allow Thomas to push through his misguided agenda. Furthermore, thanks to Usdin’s efforts behind-the-scenes, the Wheatley tax credits deal will hopefully be approved at a special board meeting later this week.

On the other hand, one could not watch the proceedings without an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu, punctuated by nightmarish visions of Ellenese Brooks-Simms and Mose Jefferson. The fact that OPSB’s president would so blatantly play self-serving political games at the expense of the school system was something that most of us had hoped was behind us. Perhaps we should instead put aside any illusions that OPSB, as it’s currently structured, can manage our public school system and build upon the substantial progress we’ve made in the past 7+ years.

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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PSA: It’s Millage Time Three School Taxes Are Up For Renewal On October 14th



Voters in New Orleans will be heading to the polls next month for the first round of several high-profile citywide races. While the contests for mayor and various city council seats have drawn plenty of attention, three important school board millages are also on the ballot (literally at the very bottom, so don’t miss them).

The millage proposal language on an Orleans Parish sample ballot from the Louisiana Secretary of State.

The three proposals simply renew existing property taxes for another decade and will provide our city’s public schools with approximately $38 million annually. Funding from these millages will benefit both charter and traditional schools, whether they’re under the oversight of the Orleans Parish School Board or the Recovery School District. If they are not renewed, schools will receive $850 less per student each year, resulting in cuts that will negatively impact our kids.

Public schools in New Orleans have made tremendous gains over the past 12 years and the revenue generated by these taxes will help ensure that progress continues.

That’s why New Orleanians should vote YES on all three school board millage proposals when they head to the polls on October 14th.

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PSA: NAACP Charter School Hearing Tonight Don't Let Critics Distort The Story In New Orleans



Tonight, the NAACP will be holding a hearing on charter schools at the New Orleans City Council Chambers (1300 Perdido Street) starting at 5:30pm. It will be the sixth hearing that the NAACP has held in cities across the country following their inexplicable call for a moratorium on charter schools last fall.

Flyer for tonight’s NAACP hearing.

The NAACP’s call for a moratorium has been roundly criticized by education reform advocates, as well as by the editorial board of The New York Times, which called the move “a misguided attack” by an organization that “has struggled in recent years to win over younger African-Americans, who often see the group as out of touch.” The Washington Post was even more scathing in their take on the moratorium, linking the NAACP’s recent turn against charters to the substantial financial support the group has received from the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.

Angry charter school parents from Memphis confronted NAACP officials at their national meeting in Cincinnati last fall.

In any case, NAACP officials have apparently decided to dispense with any pretense of objectivity at tonight’s meeting by inviting a number of outspoken charter opponents to speak, including:

  • Bill Quigley, a law professor at Loyola who filed a specious civil rights complaint against a local charter network that was eventually dismissed by the Louisiana Department of Education for lack of evidence;
  • Walter Umrani, an anti-charter candidate for the District 4 seat on the Orleans Parish School Board who received only 13% of the vote;
  • Willie Zanders, the lead attorney in the class action lawsuit against the Orleans Parish School Board and State of Louisiana over the layoffs of school board employees following Hurricane Katrina that was dismissed by the Louisiana Supreme Court;
  • Adrienne Dixson, a former education professor from Illinois who recently compared the education landscape in New Orleans to “The Hunger Games”;

  • State Rep. Joe Bouie who has used his position on the House Education Committee to spread misinformation about charter schools and engage in obstructionism, as seen below.

Charter school supporters need to attend tonight’s NAACP hearing to ensure that the truth is heard and that the positive impact that charters have had on the children of this city is not denied.

I hope to see you there!

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