Warren Easton Charter High School's graduating seniors celebrate during their commencement ceremony Monday, May 19, 2014, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/NOLA.com The Times-Picayune, Kathleen Flynn)
New Orleans has closed all its public schools and will now operate only charter schools, according to a story first reported in the Washington Post.
Benjamin Banneker elementary school closed Wednesday, one of the last five public schools in the district.
The 33,000 students in the district will now have to apply for a place at one of the Recovery School District’s 58 charter schools. A lottery will decide which students go to the schools.
Supporters say the charter schools will give parents and families more control over their children’s education. Opponents say charter schools are not accountable and many have policies which exclude Black students, low-income students and students with disabilities.
Before Hurricane Katrina the school district was one of the lowest performing in the country, with a high school graduation rate of 54.4 percent, The Washington Post article notes. Current figures are better at 77 percent. But the school population is different because many families who left during the flood have never returned to the city.
In 2004, according the US Census, New Orleans was the sixth poorest city in the country with more than one in four residents living in poverty.
Also noted in the article:
"After Katrina, the Orleans Parish School Board fired more than 7,000 employees — nearly all of them African American — while the charter schools hired scores of young teachers, many of them white recruits from Teach for America. The fired teachers sued for wrongful termination and won a judgment that could total more than $1billion.
White students disproportionately attend the best charter schools, while the worst are almost exclusively populated by African American students. Activists in New Orleans joined with others in Detroit and Newark last month to file a federal civil rights complaint, alleging that the city’s best-performing schools have admissions policies that exclude African American children. Those schools are overseen by the separate Orleans Parish School Board, and they don’t participate in OneApp, the city’s centralized school enrollment lottery."