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Disaster Capitalism Collects from FEMA: Why NOLA Charterites Have 1,800 Million Reasons to Celebrate, Part I

NOTE: All the reader comments on the Times-Picayune site, like the article itself [see below], celebrate the money. Money is all and few seem to realize that corporate=-politicos are using our tax dollars to deform and destroy public education. That's why we need people like Jim Horn analyzing what's really happening.

On her website, Sen. Mary Landrieu,co-chair of the Senate Public Charter School Caucus, repeats Arne Duncan's infamous Katrina remark:

  • Hurricane Katrina was the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans --Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Jan. 29, 2010

  • While hurricane damage devastated public school systems in South Louisiana, it also provided an opportunity to rebuild public schools based on innovation and community involvement.
    --Mary Landrieu,co-chair of the Senate Public Charter School Caucus, Website

    by Jim Horn

    In light of the 1,800 million FEMA dollars that will likely go to Paul Vallas and the charterites to build the perfect segregated charter school system in New Orleans, it is high time to revisit the educational apartheid infrastructure that corporate charterites began and that Obama has chosen to complete.

    The following is from an explanation of the unfair, unethical, and anti-public school reality on the ground in NOLA schools. It is from the Executive Summary of THE STATE OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN POST-KATRINA NEW ORLEANS: THE CHALLENGE OF CREATING EQUAL OPPORTUNITY by the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota, a report released in February 2010:

    Rebuilding of the public school system in post-Katrina New Orleans has produced a five "tiered" system of public schools in which not every student in the city receives the same quality education.

    In the new system, public schools operate under five distinct governance structures that serve different student populations: Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) traditional public schools (which educate 7 percent of the city's students); OPSB charter schools (20 percent); Recovery School District (RSD) traditional public schools (36 percent); RSD charter schools (34 percent); and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) charter schools (2 percent).

    Public schools in this tiered system do not compete on a level playing field because schools in each sector operate under different rules and regulations.

    The "tiered" system of public schools in the city of New Orleans sorts white students and a relatively small share of students of color into selective schools in the OPSB and BESE sectors, while steering the majority of low-income students of color to high-poverty schools in the RSD sector.

    In 2009, 87 percent of all white students in the city attended an OPSB or BESE charter school, while only 18 percent of black students did so.

    In contrast, 75 percent of black students attended an RSD school (charter or traditional public) in 2009, compared to only 11 percent of white students.

    Although nearly all schools in the city were high poverty, OPSB and BESE charters showed the lowest shares of high-poverty schools—67 and 50 percent—in the city. In contrast, nearly all RSD schools were high-poverty schools.

    Racial and economic segregation hurt even the limited number of students of color who are in the OPSB and BESE sectors.

    Students of color were much more likely to attend a high-poverty school than white students in these two sectors. For instance, in 2009, students of color in OPSB charter schools were nearly 12 times more likely to attend a high-poverty OPSB school than white students.


    The "tiered" system of public schools in the metro creates a tiered performance hierarchy and sorts white students and a minority of students of color into higher performing schools while restricting the majority of low income students of color into lower performing schools.

    School performance varies significantly across OPSB, RSD, BESE and suburban schools but not so much between charter and traditional schools.

    OPSB schools rank highest for the most part followed by BESE and suburban schools, with RSD schools lagging behind.

    School performance varies significantly across sectors because schools in each sector do not compete on a level playing field.

    OPSB and BESE schools in the city provide some of the most advantageous educational settings in the region. However, they do so mostly by skimming the easiest-to-educate students through selective admission requirements that allow them to set explicit academic standards for incoming students. They also shape their student enrollments by using their enrollment practices, discipline and expulsion practices, transportation policies, location decisions, and marketing and recruitment efforts. These practices certainly contribute to the selective student bodies and superior performance of these schools.

    Suburban public schools—charters and non-charters—also provide good educational settings and outcomes. Suburban traditional schools are less likely to be segregated by race or income and test scores reflect this.

    RSD charter schools still skim the most motivated public students in the RSD sector despite lacking the selective admission requirements OPSB and BESE charters have.They do so by using their enrollment practices, discipline and expulsion practices, transportation policies, location decisions, and marketing and recruitment efforts. These practices almost certainly work to increase pass rates in RSD charters compared to their traditional counterparts.

    As a result of rules that put RSD traditional schools at a competitive disadvantage, schools in this sector are reduced to ‘schools of last resort.’ This sector continues to educate the hardest-to-educate students in racially segregated, high-poverty schools.

    School performance varies much less between charter and traditional schools in each sector.

    OPSB and suburban charter schools do not outperform their traditional counterparts. RSD charter schools do outperform RSD traditional public schools but the margins are modest and are narrowing for fourth graders.

    Keep in mind this last point. Despite the actively-racist fixing, finagling, recruiting in and pushing out, the charters are having a tough time holding on to their test score advantage over the public school dumping ground they have created for purposes of unfair comparison.

    by Cindy Chang
    The Times-Picayune
    August 26, 2010
    $1.8 billion from FEMA for Hurricane Katrina school rebuilding is 'worth the wait,' Sen. Mary Landrieu says

    Five years after Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans public schools have received a $1.8 billion FEMA grant to build or renovate about 85 schools, Sen. Mary Landrieu announced Wednesday.

    The news came a day after Louisiana was rejected for a $175 million federal education grant, disappointing many local officials who had considered the state a shoo-in.

    Those same officials were jubilant on Wednesday, calling the settlement historic because it bundles the school systems' extensive Katrina damage into one large project, rather than using a building-by-building accounting. In addition to streamlining the negotiating process, the lump sum approach allows a devastated city to place new structures where they are most needed, without being restricted to rebuilding what was there before.

    Since Katrina, the New Orleans schools have received nationwide recognition for their innovative practices and improved academic performance. But for the most part, students have been housed in campuses composed entirely of portable classrooms or in aging buildings that were already crumbling before Katrina's winds and floodwaters hit. The long-awaited FEMA grant means that every school will receive either a new building or a substantially renovated one.

    "This is one of the great victories in our fight for a smarter recovery," Landrieu, D-La., said. "It's a fight we won, and it was a battle worth waging. It was worth the wait ... I hope this will serve as the model for many communities rebuilding after catastrophic tragedies."

    FEMA, which has not yet announced the award, issued the following statement: "The Obama Administration remains committed to supporting Gulf Coast communities as they continue to recover from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which is why we have worked hard to cut through red tape and resolve disputes over recovery projects, freeing up over $2.5 billion in public assistance dollars since January 2009. We anticipate another major announcement regarding ongoing recovery efforts will be made later this week."

    In November 2008, the city's two school districts, the Recovery School District and the Orleans Parish School Board, approved a $1.8 billion master plan for facilities construction in anticipation of the eventual FEMA settlement. With the student population down to nearly half of pre-storm totals, many of the 128 existing campuses are scheduled to be "landbanked," or retired from active use, leaving about 85 to be built or renovated.

    Three new schools -- Langston Hughes Elementary, Greater Gentilly High School and L.B. Landry High School -- and three renovations -- William J. Guste Elementary, Andrew Wilson Elementary and Joseph Craig Elementary -- are already finished. Work continues on the remainder of the plan's $700 million first phase, with completion dates mostly in fall 2012 or fall 2013.

    The money for the first phase had already been committed by FEMA, but the remaining $1.1 billion the schools hoped to receive was in doubt until Wednesday. The amount of the settlement matches the master plan's estimated price tag, but construction costs and other variables could drive up the final tally. Financing for the $370 million second phase and the $179 million third phase seems assured, said Stan Smith, the Orleans Parish School Board̢۪s chief financial officer.

    Phase two projects include new schools at the Hoffman, Dunbar, Priestley, Capdau/Bradley, Lockett, Morial, Abrams, Henderson/Fischer, Tubman, McDonogh 11 and Karr sites, as well as one labeled "Jeff site." Renovations are slated for McDonogh 15, Live Oak, Lafayette, Clark, Drew, Gaudet and McDonogh 35.

    Most of the new schools in phase two are priced at either $19.8 million or $26.4 million. Beyond phase one, the master plan does not include completion dates.

    Since the storm, nearly three-quarters of the city's public schools have become independently run charters. With two school districts overseeing a loose grouping of charters and not enough quality facilities to go around, building assignments have been a major bone of contention.

    "If we didn't have this single settlement, we'd be arguing about how much for this school, how much for that school, Now, we can just go ahead and start building and get kids out of modulars," said Orleans Parish School Board President Woody Koppel.

    Negotiations with FEMA had been ongoing since the storm, but the finalizing of the master plan, as well as legislation by Landrieu authorizing lump sum payments to schools affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, gave new impetus to the talks.

    In a written statement, Recovery School District Superintendent Paul Vallas praised Landrieu for being the prime mover behind the settlement.

    "It was her sheer determination and untiring efforts that enabled us to secure this settlement, along with the flexibility to spend the money in a way that will allow us to build public schools that will serve the needs of all the children in our city," Vallas said.

    New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu also thanked his sister and said the city will try to follow suit by obtaining a lump-sum settlement for public safety facilities.

    "This settlement is a big win for the children of New Orleans ... For too long our children have been learning in temporary, unsatisfactory buildings," Mayor Landrieu said in a news release. "This settlement will help make schools the center of neighborhood renewal."

    — Jim Horn
    Schools Matter blog and New Orleans Times-Picayune





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