Education

Morris Jeff Community School was the first New Orleans charter to form a union, in 2013. But its teachers operated without a contract. Until now.

Mallory Falk / WWNO

This school year, two high profile New Orleans charter schools attempted to form unions. One voted yes: International High School. One voted no: Lusher Charter School. In light of those votes, teachers around the city shared their perspective on unions since Katrina and where things might go from here.

William Widmer / Slate

The New Orleans teaching force changed dramatically after Hurricane Katrina, when all public school teachers were laid off. They were mostly black, veteran educators from the area. Now, teachers are more likely to be young, white and to have grown up outside New Orleans.

Mallory Falk / WWNO

Teachers at International High School of New Orleans voted in favor of a union on Friday.

Employees gathered behind closed doors to hear the final count. Some wore buttons that said, simply, yes. Others wore T-shirts with bold text on the back: If you can read, thank a teacher. If you cannot, thank a teacher's union.

Mallory Falk / WWNO

Something big has been decided about New Orleans schools. And it seemed to happen pretty fast. Governor John Bel Edwards has now signed legislation ordering that all New Orleans schools return to the control of the Orleans Parish School Board. But not nearly as much control as that board had before Katrina. Things will look very different than they did a decade ago.

Mallory Falk / WWNO

Teachers at Lusher Charter School voted against joining a union.

The final vote was 54 in favor of the union and 77 against. A smaller group of paraprofessionals also voted separately, with eight for, five against and three challenged votes.

Mallory Falk / WWNO

This school year there's been a lot of talk about how to fund special education, as the Recovery School District and Orleans Parish School Board move toward a unified funding formula. But what actually happens inside a special education classroom?

Courtesy

This spring, families who applied to New Orleans public schools got some bad news. School placements were announced a week late. Why was that such a big deal? Many private school deposits were due. Families had to decide: pay up to reserve a seat or take a chance with the public charter school lottery, OneApp. More New Orleans families - those with enough resources - find themselves choosing between public and private education.

Jeneane Watson always assumed she’d send her kids to public school. That was the norm where she grew up, outside Baltimore.

Although New Orleans has religious universities, public and private universities, and historically black colleges and universities which - taken together - have very diverse student bodies, the city lacks diversity in its higher education faculty.

Laurence Copel founded the Lower 9th Ward’s free library and currently operates the city’s only functional book mobile. According to a 2015 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 77 percent of fourth graders in Louisiana are not proficient in reading. Tyler Gillespie has this profile of Copel, whose work is focused on child literacy. She says some children in New Orleans face extreme disadvantages because of limited access to books.

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