The most important item on the Nov. 8 ballot is the U.S. presidential race because, well, what could be more important, right? It’s all so riveting. Will Trump win? Will Hillary make history? And what is the rest of the world thinking about America as they watch this shameless excuse of a presidential race play out?
The race for nation’s top political office is undoubtedly in the forefront of the minds of everyone, everywhere…as it should be…UNLESS you live in New Orleans.
They say “all politics is local.” Well, determining whether we will continue to settle for the sad state of affairs that currently exists in local public education or if we will elect men and women willing to listen to and fight for students, parents, educators, taxpayers and the entire community is as political, as local, and as serious as it gets.
Education is the issue!
If you have watched what has happened in the name of so-called education reform over the past 11 years, then the school board race is the biggest deal—bigger even than the race for White House, we say. As a matter of fact, the best thing the next president of the United States can do for the people of New Orleans and other spots across the nation where the reform movement has taken hold is to make immediate, significant and well-defined changes in the U.S. Department of Education that will reverse the disastrous and irresponsible course taken by Arne Duncan and his successor John B. King, Jr. Yep, it’s true—all politics are local.
So, go to the polls on Nov. 8, and make sure to pick a presidential candidate. We are confident that you, our readers, know what to do in this contest. But the job is not finished until voters move down the entire ballot, paying particular attention to who’s running to lead our public school system. With only three contested seats on the board and with the future of our children, the unification of schools, billions of dollars in school construction and renovation expenditures, along with any hope for a return to authentic local control on the line, the upcoming school board election cannot be downgraded to a footnote. To be sure, those who have wrested control of our system in the name of so-called reform know just how serious it is. That is why they have poured millions of dollars from far and near into local and state education elections over the past several years. The result has been fancy footwork and covert maneuvers to stack the board with pro-reform “advocates” with duplicitous motives who talk out of both sides of their mouths. Make no mistake, the fact that four other school board seats went unchallenged does not speak to the stellar qualifications or exemplary work of unopposed candidates, but to the astronomical intensity of a well-funded corporate-driven reform movement that has been rammed down the throats on New Orleanians and born on the backs of our children. Don’t believe us? A quick check of campaign finance reports for the current and immediate past school board election cycles will indicate who is running the show.
How we at The New Orleans Tribune feel about the direction public education in New Orleans has taken since Hurricane Katrina is no secret. How we feel about this farce of a unification process is even less of a mystery. So as we look at this school board race, the questions we have about local public education and those who want to govern it are clear.
We want to know if the people vying to lead local public education actually think that what is happening in New Orleans and what will happen if Act 91 goes unchallenged even looks remotely like local governance? We need school system leaders who understand that a model of governance in which a duly elected school board can’t approve a school calendar, or stop a school from putting dozens of uncertified “recruits” in front of classrooms and pays them pennies compared to the exorbitant salaries earned by charter “executives” while our children suffer is not governance at all. It is submission. As so-called reform advocates continue to mount their campaign, we need leaders that will not submit, surrender, or SELL OUT. More than that, we need to know how they plan to address – no – challenge the status quo. Are they willing to support residents ready to wage legal battles to regain control of public education in this city? Are the ready to lead that charge?
Education is the issue!
Nearly $2 billion is being spent on school construction and renovation as part of the “second” master plan. We call it the “second” plan because the original plan was put into action in the immediate wake of Katrina with the firing of veteran teachers, the seizure of schools and the withholding of federal funds sent to stabilize public education while many of us were too pre-occupied with the havoc the storm wreaked in our respective lives. Meanwhile, another $28 million is earmarked each year for the upkeep of school facilities in a city where the unemployment rate among Black males is a reported 44 percent. As such, we must have school board leaders willing to—without trepidation or apology—demand that goals be set and met to ensure that Black-owned enterprises and Black workers participate equitably in the lucrative contracts and good-paying jobs. Better still, we need school board leaders that understand the connection between the economic security of families and educational outcomes of the children. We need school board leaders that realize that schools belong in neighborhoods and understand that no child, by virtue of where their mom or dad works, should have a seat reserved for them at a top-performing school, as exemplified by the Tulane University’s relationship with Lusher Charter School, while a child who lives a stone’s throw away from that very same campus has to take two buses across town to attend a failing or almost failing school because the algorithm didn’t work in their favor.
Education is the issue! In fact, the state of local public education in New Orleans right now is so profoundly the issue that it cannot stop with this school board election alone. Every member of the local state legislative delegation needs to be made to answer for his or her vote on SB 432 (now Act 91) and their effective abandonment of the very people they are charged to represent the next time their name is on a ballot.
Education is the issue!
Accountability is imperative!
Vote accordingly on November 8!