This also came down the pike today. And it begins with a man whose school is doing this for its teachers, when they don't even have enough textbooks for the kids :
Alford, 33, launched Langston Hughes Academy for kindergarten through sixth grade in a stately, yellow, peachy-red Mid-City school building that withstood eight feet of floodwater after the August 2005 hurricane. One day this spring, he strolled a third-floor corridor that had fresh paint, student work and college banners on the walls. "Thinking about my kids keeps me up at night," he said, "but the larger mission is there -- like, wow . . . we will never have this chance again, and if it is successful, other cities should do it, too."
Other things I found interesting about this article:
Some critics call the charter invasion of New Orleans a challenge to democratic values. Writing about New Orleans in a new book, Leigh Dingerson, education team leader for the Center for Community Change in the District, says Louisiana school authorities have "opened a flea market of entrepreneurial opportunism that is dismantling the institution of public education in New Orleans."
But most educators and parents here are not taking sides in the ideological war over charters. An October teachers union report warned against "destructive rivalry" between regular and charter schools. Christian Roselund, spokesman for the United Teachers of New Orleans, said "the jury is still out" on how schools of any kind are going to perform. Regular schools are changing, too, and some state officials want to give tax-funded vouchers to help students attend private schools. Eighty-three percent of New Orleans public school families have low incomes.
Before the flood, New Orleans usually ranked near the bottom nationally in reading and math. This spring, results from the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program tests show modest gains for schools here, but overall achievement is still poor. There is no data yet on how charters compared with regular schools. About a third of fourth- and eighth-graders flunked the latest state tests. Sixty percent of sophomores failed in their first try at English and math tests that they must pass to graduate.As we have seen here before, educators and parents can't afford to take sides in this right now. For educators, it means their jobs...and much more. For parents - let's look at that statistic again: Eighty-three percent of New Orleans public school families have low incomes. They can't afford to be shopping around. And they are only being further shortchanged by the fact that most of these schools being discussed are in the unaccredited RSD.
Dingerson faults Louisiana authorities for allowing charters to pour into New Orleans after the hurricane with "no coordinated vision or plan for how the system they were building would serve children well and equitably."
Charters snapped up rent-free school buildings, she wrote, recruited students they wanted and shut their doors to other applicants. Regular public schools had to admit any student who showed up during the school year, despite disruption to classes. "The city's regular schools now struggle to serve a disproportionate number of students with special needs," she wrote in an e-mail.
More on all of this here from someone else who knows.
Oh, and as for Langston Hughes Academy, these words coming from the Harlem Renaissance poet himself come to mind:
Maybe it was just that I was getting older and straighter and saw more of what was really happening. Maybe Harlem had really changed. At any rate, I saw that to even have a Harlem in 1965 was insanity. I didn't feel guilty and ashamed, I just felt sad and angry.
Langston and I spent most of the afternoon talking about his poems. I talked about Harlem with him too, how I'd noticed that it seemed different to me.
"I'm sure you're seeing a little clearer," he told me, "but it has changed. All those hundreds of years of bitterness and frustrations are beginning to overflow. We've been promised so much for so long and now there's so much to be had, a lot of the young people figure if they don't get it they're going to go out and take it. I'm a different generation. You see, I love Harlem. I've lived all over the world and I still find it's one of the most beautiful places I know. But the younger people don't feel this way. History is finally catching up with America. Still, I hate to see the anger in the young faces all the time - it's even hard for me to write my Simple stories anymore. There's so much bitterness and anger that they don't seem to be as funny as they used to."*
History may be catching up with America. It probably did a while ago and we fought it with all our might and are still fighting it. Problem is, I think we are doing our damnedest to beat it back with the use of money, centuries of corruption, loopholes out the wazoo, wars, the manipulation of our sense of what is right through the way things really are, and, still, discrimination - a stealthy, underground, "oh no, not me", "but that's illegal!" sort of discrimination.
When do we start to really overcome?
*from Vibrations by David Amram
Update, 11:59 AM: More on this article from Hurricane Radio