Privatization hurts students and schools

Orion Elrod, News & Copy Editor

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Despite the protests of parents, students and teachers across New Orleans, the New Orleans Parish school board has recently voted to force all of its public schools to be run by charter organizations, making New Orleans the first city in the United States to do so. Most of the schools in the city were already operating in this manner due to a post-Katrina mandate that shifted the majority of under-performing schools into the hands of charter organizations. This complete overhaul, however, will introduce something new; it will give city officials jurisdiction over textbook choice, curriculum and, most importantly, deciding whether or not schools will be forced to close based on performance ratings from standardized test scores. This is problematic, to say the least.

Charter schools are institutions that receive both private and public funds but are not regulated by the federal government. Their private funding allows the city school board to have total jurisdiction. This creates issues when individuals on the school board are not educators and have no true qualifications to be creating a curriculum. It also allows people who have no special insight into the education system to decide whether a school is opened, closed or redistricted. This is not an improvement for students. Allowing politicians with no background in education to make this type of major decision is not even a dangerous oversight; it is a common, deliberate choice, such as the appointment of Betsy Devos, the United States secretary of education. Devos has called public education a “dead end,”a statement New Orleans seems to  have agreed with.

Charter schools, however, have often proven to be ineffective. A study performed by Stanford found that 37 percent of charter school students performed significantly worse on state assessments than children in public school. These schools operate as businesses so they cut corners trying to maximize their profit. This is not uncommon for a business, but it should never be common in education. It should certainly not become the new norm.

There is no perfect solution to the problems ailing the education system, especially in large cities like New Orleans, but giving up on the public sector is not going to improve conditions. Fund public schools; give teachers the supplies that they need to educate their students; allow schools the resources to attempt techniques that have been proven to be effective but are simply considered too inaccessible or too risky. Ultimately, all solutions should start and end with benefit to the students, and given the current system of privatization, that cannot happen.  We cannot allow New Orleans to become a model for cities across the United States. Public schools should remain public and within the hands of federal and state governments, or even better, educators who are more qualified to make legislation and create curriculum.