This weekend New Orleans voters decide whether to extend and redirect a property tax to fund school maintenance. The measure seems simple: set aside money so schools don't fall into disrepair. But the millage vote reflects a power struggle in New Orleans schools.
Last month, a banner started appearing outside schools. It features a racially diverse group of kids, with crisp jeans and wide smiles. Each gives a big thumbs up. The accompanying text: Our children, our schools. Not a tax increase. Vote December 6.
Last year, the Recovery School District closed four elementary schools in New Orleans because of poor performance, affecting about one thousand students, who had to find another school this year.
Now, state officials have released grades for many of the new schools those students are enrolled in. The question is whether those students who were forced to change schools ended up at better schools than the ones they left.
The state-run Recovery School District took over nearly all New Orleans public schools after Hurricane Katrina. Soon, it won't run any. It will, however, oversee dozens of charter schools, including 17 local schools which recently decided they wanted to stay in the state system instead of returning to the local school board.
Seventeen state-run charter schools in the Recovery School District will decide in the next two months whether to switch to the oversight of the Orleans Parish School Board. A list of eligible schools will be presented at a state education board meeting Wednesday.
Last year, many charter schools who were able to move turned that deal down, because it would mean they would lose their status as independent districts. That problem has since been resolved; a new law lets them stay independent.
The state ethics board has deferred a decision on whether state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Kira Orange-Jones can keep her elected seat and her job as executive director of the New Orleans branch of Teach for America.
Alainna Giacone, spokeswoman for the ethics board, said Friday that Orange-Jones' attorney asked for the postponement until the panel's August meeting.