The editorial position of The Advocate (Opinion, Nov. 1) regarding the 10-year takeover of failing schools seems reasonable. The Advocate believes local school boards should not stand in the way if parents want a charter school to replace a failing school. The argument is flimsy.
It’s an incorrect assumption that school boards, such as the Orleans Parish School Board with its history of corruption and unethical central office, will oppose the expansion of charter schools. Times have changed.
Thanks to the creativity and vision of school reformers, even if they are sometimes self serving in their adamant hostility to “local control” in matters of school governance, it is hard to imagine that school boards would block the will of parents and local communities to seek charter schools licenses or new operators.
School boards would commit political suicide, certainly in New Orleans, if they acted to roll back the clock after 10 years. Although the fears among the reform community are understandable, I believe they are unwarranted — and merely stoke to the fire of their opponents. School choice advocates would be better served to put their energies into building consensus for a comprehensive approach to the pesky governance issue, post state takeover.
I would suggest that, at least in New Orleans, serious consideration be given to the “unified governing board” proposal first put forth by former Tulane President Scott Cowen and other authentic, locally knowledgeable New Orleanians who understood the importance of charter schools whose mission was to lift poor academic achievement while maintaining fidelity to our rich cultural heritage and aesthetic.
Shortly after Hurricane Katrina’s arrival, Cowen offered the prescient proposal to configure a unifying “super board,” whose function would be solely to govern what would soon become a balkanized “system” of public schools that now characterize the local education landscape.
This prophetic vision would replace the micromanaging compulsions of the old OPSB and what appears as its reincarnated administrative version, the RSD. The latter seems convinced that the only policy alternative worthy of consideration as to what to do with failing schools is to close them. This has the unintended consequence of further undermining access to quality neighborhood schools, charters or otherwise. The formula is all too-often familiar: school failure, school closure and school takeover by (yet) another charter operator.
We need a framework for educational governance that is more imaginative than this worn-thin remedy.
director, Institute for Quality & Equity in Education