New Orleans parents say school choice has improved their children’s educational opportunities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but they are still pushing for greater reform and more school choice options.
On July 23, several parents had an opportunity to be heard publicly on the issue of school choice during a panel discussion on the state of public education 10 years after Hurricane Katrina.
The panel composed of eight parents, all of whom have children who attend New Orleans charter schools, tackled topics such as enrollment, accountability, school governance, and parental involvement.
Further Improvement Sought
The panelists agreed public education in New Orleans has improved in the past decade but must continue to move toward excellence.
“Pre-Katrina there were no options,” said Kimya Bishop-Cole, mother of two children who attend charter schools. “Your child had to go to a district school. It might be close to your home, but you might end up with a failing school.”
Referring to New Orleans’ all-charter public school landscape, many of the parents say they have been more connected to the authorities in their children’s schools under a charter model than when conventional, union-controlled public schools dominated the scene.
“Now you can go to a charter board meeting and voice your concerns,” said Roshand Miller, a mother of three children in public schools. “Charter schools have made it more accessible to parents.”
Mixed Feelings On the Use of Enrollment System
Parents expressed mixed feelings about OneApp, a unified enrollment system in which families can sign up to attend a variety of the city’s public schools, as well as the private schools, participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program.
“Honestly, [OneApp] made us better as parents because we are doing more research and are able to see where our children are going to school,” said Bishop-Cole. “We are looking at [school] ratings. Before, we didn’t have that option.”
Isiss Donate, a single mother of two, is unhappy with the OneApp system after trying unsuccessfully to enroll her son in a neighborhood school.
“There are two ‘A’ schools in my neighborhood, and he didn’t get into either,” said Donate. “If I live here, he should be able to go to school here.”
Miller says it is less about the enrollment process and more about the overall quality of schools.
“If they were all ‘A’ and ‘B’ schools, you wouldn’t be so frustrated when you didn’t get your first choice,” said Miller.
Calling for Excellence for All
The panelists say all of the city’s schools should be at the same level as the handful of New Orleans schools parents say are “excellent.”
“We shouldn’t have to drive across town and fight to get our children into … [quality schools such as] Lusher, Audubon, and Baby Ben,” said Miller. “They should all be [like] Lusher, Audubon, and Baby Ben.”
“It’s a new climate,” said Lamont Douglas, who has children in three charter schools. “Parents are going to have to come together to make all of our schools good and get involved in their children’s education.”
Paul Dauphin ([email protected]) is communications director for the Louisiana Federation for Children.
Image by woodleywonderworks.
“NOLA Parents Perspective: A Conversation About New Orleans Public Education 10 Years Post-Katrina,” Louisiana Black Alliance for Educational Options, Orleans Public Education Network (OPEN), Stand for Children Louisiana, and the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, July 23, 2015: https://youtu.be/ZVeReHEtWok