posted at 4:11 pm on February 1, 2010 by Mitch Berg
I’ve taken my share of flak from public-school-uber-alles advocates for saying that the best way to resuscitate K-6 education is to abolish it.
“Certainly our public school systems can be revived”, they – “they” being people who usually don’t have kids in inner-city public school systems – protest, “rather than destroying them and starting over”.
Perhaps, in the sense that “perhaps I’ll be squiring Scarlett Johannson around town for Valentine’s Day”. We have no evidence of this, of course; the performance of most large urban school districts is poor, and deteriorating, even as we pump more and more money into the systems.
With – as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan notes – one huge exception. As noted in this space in recent months, the New Orleans Public School system was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Already worse than most urban school districts in terms of performance, achievement gaps and graduation rates, the NOLA public schools were quite literally blown away.
And Secretary Duncan has observed that that’s been a good thing:
ABC News’ Mary Bruce Reports: 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.”
The American Educational/Industrial Complex (I credit the term to my friend, leftyblogger Erik Hare) – the confluence of unions, administrator, bureaucrats and educational academics that are married to the current system – has got to be going to red alert over this statement – the first from a high-ranking Federal official that the best way to save public schools is to destroy the system and start over.
Especially since, as noted in this blog, one of the vital keys to this improvement seems to be the proliferation of charter schools in New Orleans. Charter schools – schools chartered by the local district and operating with each student’s slice of the district’s tax money, but sponsored by an eduction-related entity and controlled by a site board directly accountable to the school’s parents and staff – are controversial; the educational-industrial complex desperately wants them eliminated, resorting to serial hatchet-jobbery in states like Minnesota, where the state government is controlled by a DFL (Democrat)-majority legislature more in bed with the Teachers’ Unions than Elliot Spitzer was with Ashley Duprè, despite the fact that when one compares apples with apples, charter schools perform better.
As they’re discovering in New Orleans, loud and clear enough that even a bureaucrat can figure it out.
Cross-posted at Shot In The Dark.