One thing that emerged during the legislative debate over whether to send 52 formerly failing state-run schools back to the locally elected Orleans Parish School Board was a pretty broad consensus that this was the right move at the right time.
Not everyone was on board, of course. But given how contentious the issue has been over the past decade, the measure, which was carefully crafted by the two system superintendents with heavy input from the charter school community that wants to make sure the schools retain political and operational independence, reached Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk with surprising ease.
During a signing ceremony last week, something else became clear: That the reunification plan had enthusiastic support from some perhaps unexpected players at the highest level of government.
The fact that Edwards held a ceremony in the first place signaled just how important he thinks the change is. Before handing the pen to the bill’s author, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, the governor made a point of reading a co-author list that featured Democrats and Republicans, African-American and white members, and legislative veterans and rookies. Having put in time on the House Education Committee, Edwards said, he knows from experience what a sea change this level of agreement is.
Edwards also highlighted the role played by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who he said was involved in preliminary talks that dated to before Edwards took office. Landrieu couldn’t make the event, but he sent his top aide, Andy Kopplin, to speak.
The governor, it’s worth noting, is generally considered an ally of local school districts rather than the charter movement. Landrieu has no direct oversight of education, but he’s a longtime backer of public school choice and independently run schools.
So Edwards and Landrieu are on the same page on this? Call it yet another sign of a remarkable level of agreement over a long-divisive situation.
‘Grace notes’ is a daily feature by Advocate columnist Stephanie Grace. To read more of her content, including her full columns, click here.