Corporate reformers have touted the New Orleans “transformation” as proof that privatization works. The recipe is simple: First, get a natural disaster to wipe out all the public schools. Then, fire all the unionized teachers and replace them with inexperienced, low-wage teachers willing to work long hours. At the same time, replace the public schools with privately managed charter schools. Let everyone choose. And, eventually, great things happen: test scores go up, graduation rates go up, college admission rates rise, college persistence goes up. All these great things happen by the miracle of privatization.
As Carol Burris explains in this important article, the narrative is all wrong.
Before Hurricane Katrina, there were 65,000 students in the schools of New Orleans. Today, there are about 45,000. The hurricane did the most damage to the low-lying areas where very poor people lived, and some of them never returned.
In mid-July, Douglas Harris…
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