A bill in the Legislature is aimed at returning, against the will of charter operators, some once-failing Recovery School District schools to the control of the Orleans Parish School Board. Most of the charters are in Orleans, although the state-administered RSD also has taken over failing schools beyond the Crescent City, such as in Baton Rouge.
No, the Recovery School District hasn’t been a cure-all for what ails public education. In fact, a number of the schools in RSD’s control haven’t met expectations. But the legislation that lawmakers are now considering isn’t progress. The measure, House Bill 166 by Rep. Joe Bouie, D-New Orleans, now faces debate in the full House, after a 9-8 vote to squeak past the Education Committee. Let’s face it: If the Orleans Parish school system had created a climate of innovation, then charter schools would be flocking to the system of their own choice. HB166 has all the makings of a shotgun marriage, seeking to force a relationship that hasn’t been nurtured at the local level.
In a statewide election year, Bouie’s bill likely will be championed by traditional school boards, often hostile to charter schools, which are public schools but run independently of the elected school boards. The teachers unions are also likely to push hard, because they have a better chance of gleaning members from traditional schools than charters, although there is no formal reason that charter school teachers could not be union members.
Support of the bill is a way to strike back at the reform movement that pushed for accountability in the tragic years when OPSB was a hallmark for educational failure in not only this state but the nation. That failure was recognized by then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, who pushed for RSD measures before the storms of 2005.
Today, schools that emerge from “failed” status can opt to return to OPSB, but that seldom happens; of 36 schools eligible to return, only one, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School, did so recently. It will operate under OPSB auspices with some support from the system’s services. It was King Charter’s choice. That choice would be denied other schools under the Bouie bill.
Today’s law on voluntary returns by charters is working, but for those legislators who are nervous about their status with the traditional powers in public education at the local level, an unnecessary bill might get traction.