The education panel is underway. The discussion has hit some key points. A certain element of the "reform" movement is a right-wing movement to destroy teacher unions, privatize public education (for profit, of course), and destroy community spirit.
I don't know whether or not I'm going to get a chance to ask any questions, but I have a few thoughts on education in New Orleans that I'd like to throw out there.
First off, my mom has been a teacher for 30+ years. She is a union member. She hates the union, but she knows it'll be the only friend in her corner if her back is up against a wall. I've been trying to convince her to shift from Jefferson Parish to Orleans and teach at a school 4 blocks from her house (saving lots of money in gas in the process). She refuses to because there are NO protections on teachers. The union is busted. Even though her friend is the principal, a great teacher is scared away because of the cut-throatedness. Most teachers just want to teach and the best system is the one that puts the fewest impediments in the process.
My second thought is about a couple of incidents in charter schools I know personally about. After Hines and Ben Franklin were converted to charter schools, egregious criminal acts were committed. At Hines, a parent on the PTA was embezzling funds from PTA funds (I'm looking for the article and can't find it). At Ben Franklin High School, the principal turned the budget into her own little kitty to reward and punish teachers. The final straw was her giving her partner a 'performance bonus' of several thousand dollars. The teachers went to the board and got the principal, Carrol Christian*, fired. My point is this: if this is going on at schools that would be considered top-tier in ANY school system, can you imagine what's going on at other schools?
My final thought (at least for now): Orleans Parish School Board's failure was not 100% attributable to lack of funds. OPSB had a $600 million budget. Less than 25 cents out of every education dollar reached the class room. I talked to Maitri last night about corruption in India and she said that they have just as many problems with corruption as we do. My point to her was there are certain things that people don't fuck with. In some areas, societal values make it unthinkable to mess with a child's education. Maitri said, as fucked up as some of the Hindu/Muslim things in India get, there's no movement to force kids to learn intelligent design, etc.
Just a few things to throw out there.
UPDATE- Oh yeah, there are 2 candidates for Orleans Parish School Board I'll give a plug to. Amy LaFont is running for District 3. She was at the party at Buffa's last night. Percy Marchand is an occasional commenter on Ray's blog and showed up today.
UPDATE 2- Being a graduate of a program axed by Scott Cowen, I love it how someone pointed out that the backers of The Cowen Institute are the same backers of Nagin's "award."
UPDATE 3- This is the NY Times article blindly praising the charter schools that one panelist called "garbage."
*- I never saw any news report about the firing. I'm happy to name her name here. Maybe when she applies for a job somewhere, someone will Google her and learn the truth about her.