Green Room

Quote of the Day: Katrina was the best thing for New Orleans’ schools!

posted at 9:51 am on January 30, 2010 by

In the “Wow, I can’t believe he just said that category”, Arne Duncan yesterday said that Katrina was the best thing to happen to the schools of New Orleans. Yes, really:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said today that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans” because it gave the city a chance to rebuild and improve its failing public schools.

In an interview to air this weekend on “Washington Watch with Roland Martin” Duncan said “that education system was a disaster. And it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that we have to do better. And the progress that it made in four years since the hurricane, is unbelievable.”

The Education Department confirmed the quote to ABC and Duncan released the following statement in response: “As I heard repeatedly during my visits to New Orleans, for whatever reason, it took the devastating tragedy of the hurricane to wake up the community to demand more and expect better for their children.”

Yeah, because the education officials in New Orleans couldn’t have possibly started rebuilding schools without a massive hurricane that wiped out the entire city and left thousands upon thousands without a home. Thank God Katrina hit New Orleans, right?

And if after Katrina hit, officials were saying “Gee, let’s make the schools better than they were before the hurricane”, I’m pretty sure that means they knew exactly how bad the school system was before it hit. A hurricane does not make a school district worse, it makes it obsolete. A hurricane won’t exactly highlight the flaws of a school system — it’s as if Katrina came in and said, “Gee, you’ve got a lot of tardiness in this school and in this one, half of your teachers can barely write proper English, and in this one, you’ve got a lot of interference and corruption with the teachers unions.” If Katrina was what made New Orleans education officials make the school systems better, then great. But at the same time, the only reason they hadn’t done so beforehand was because of sheer laziness. I’m sure they knew exactly how bad their schools were.

I just don’t know if parents who have children in New Orleans schools are really thanking God that Katrina hit so that the local government could come in and make them so much better finally. But then, perhaps Arne Duncan is just taking a page out of another Obama cabinet member’s book. Never let a good crisis go to waste, right?

Cross-posted from Cassy’s blog. Stop by for more original commentary, or follow her on Twitter!

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He is forgetting that most of the schools that have reopened since Katrina are charter and private schools, they out number “public” schools about 3 to 1,and as a private school they can bounce you out if you do not behave and do your class work. This is the improvement that is being seen.

Kris on January 30, 2010 at 10:23 AM

My guess would be that pre-Katrina they new how bad the schools were but lacked the political will and resources to do anything about it. Post-Katrina they were forced to rebuild and had a lot of federal money to do it with.

Stephen Macklin on January 30, 2010 at 10:40 AM

So, Bush gets credit for saving NO schools?

Since he caused Katrina…

catmman on January 30, 2010 at 11:04 AM

Actually, it seems like Arne is talking about the power of rolling up your sleeves and getting to work at rebuilding after a disaster. Such events really are opportunities to rebuild things better than they were before. That may not be what the liberal in Arne really means, but we should at least support the sentiment.

joe_doufu on January 30, 2010 at 11:49 AM

I was teaching in Texas at the time and we got a lot of kids from Louisiana as a result of Katrina. I’d say they got a sample of the Texas school system and realized just how awful their system really was. Not one of the students we received was on grade level in reading or any other subject.

texabama on January 30, 2010 at 12:28 PM

They could have done something for decades, but did not and would not. Without the 2005 destruction the many changes since would have never happened. Just for one, all schools are open to students anywhere in the city. No kid is forced into a school because of where his home is. How many public schools systems in the country have that level of school choice?

exception on January 30, 2010 at 1:40 PM

“For decades prior to Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, the New Orleans public school system was widely recognized as the lowest performing school district in Louisiana. According to researchers Carl L. Bankston and Stephen J. Caldas, only 12 of the 103 public schools then in operation within the city limits of New Orleans showed reasonably good performance at the beginning of the twenty-first century.”

“The Recovery School District had been created in 2003 to allow the state to take over failing schools, those that fell into a certain “worst-performing” metric. Five public schools in New Orleans were transferred to RSD control prior to Katrina.”

The above is from Wiki on the NOLA public schools takeover. The state was already in the process of taking these schools over. Katrina really did just accelerate it.

GnuBreed on January 30, 2010 at 7:03 PM

When Barbara Bush said that Katrina actually was a good thing for many NO residents since they ended up in better places she was pilloried by the media, but Duncan is a Democrat so he’ll get a pass.

Pervygrin on January 30, 2010 at 8:48 PM

Actually, it seems like Arne is talking about the power of rolling up your sleeves and getting to work at rebuilding after a disaster. Such events really are opportunities to rebuild things better than they were before. That may not be what the liberal in Arne really means, but we should at least support the sentiment.

joe_doufu on January 30, 2010 at 11:49 AM

No, Arne is talking about the infusion of federal funds. In the absence of fed money, New Orleans would have done nothing. In fact, with the infusion, it’s unclear what New Orleans has done. The same corrupt unions are in charge. The same ratio of bad tenured teachers to good tenured teachers exists. What has changed is that there are fewer students, and hence a smaller district. As to whether that makes the district “better” is certainly questionable.

The sentiment isn’t about rolling up your sleeves and getting to work, unless the Democrats have changed their tune — its about Obama taking credit for something that hasn’t happened. As Mr. Rahm is apt to say, never let a good catastrophe go to waste.

unclesmrgol on January 31, 2010 at 9:51 AM

Kris on January 30, 2010 at 10:23 AM

This administration will NEVER give credit to the private sector for anything.

uknowmorethanme on January 31, 2010 at 12:54 PM

The luckiest Katrina victims were tose that were evacuated and dispersed to better run communities. I lived in Austin at the time of this hurricane and we absorbed 10K evacuees. They got their FEMA housing vouchers, and thus were scattered throughout the community. No longer were these kids concentrated in an abysmal concentrated slum with no positive role models and dumped in failing schools. They got put into better schools with better housing, and all of their neighbors and school mates were families with parents who had jobs, etc. Thus, they got to see, up close and personal, how life is SUPPOSED to be, rather than suckle on the teat of government handouts for generation after generation.

And with so many evacuees dispersed to other states and communities, those that were left in New Orleans are a more mangageable number to begin to rebuild the communities. This may sound harsh, but that is the reality of this situation.

karenhasfreedom on January 31, 2010 at 2:22 PM

I think you have all missed the point.

Without the wholesale destruction of the City and the school system, the corruption, patronage, nepotism and theft of school dollars would have gone on as it has since the Earth began cooling.

Busting the corrupt unions, throwing out do-nothing layabouts in favor of real, working educators (who were responding to the very real anger of the parents) was the ‘great effect’.

Pounding dollars, taxpayer or other, into the crooked rathole that is N.O. is just like setting them on fire. Tearing the thing down and starting fresh is about the only way you’re going to make some headway.

Now, about Ray “Chocolate” Nagin…

heldmyw on January 31, 2010 at 2:32 PM