Democracy and Revenue: Where the New Orleans Autonomous Charter School Model Breaks Down


New Orleans    New Orleans continues, past any notion of reality, to be touted as a model example of educational reform because of the huge number of charter schools, mostly run by separate and independent operators.  There are many problems with this so-called model, but a huge, glaring deficiency has been the usurpation of any democratic, citizen-based governance in the independent charter systems.  Finally, the rubber is hitting the road, not surprisingly around money, and the fundamentally unsustainable financing model of the charter aristocracies.

To refresh some number of the charters are actually run by the Orleans Parish School Board.  They are still elected and responsible to the citizens of New Orleans, as they should be.  Even more charters are run by the Recovery School District (RSD) accountable theoretically to the State of Louisiana, but really to nobody, since there is no elected governance.  The charters have variously appointed boards.  The local web-based newsweekly in New Orleans, The Lens, had a project to try to monitor these boards and their governance but was having trouble doing so, since many of them even wanted to pretend that they were not subject to the Louisiana open meetings law.  You get the picture:  these are rogue operations funded by taxpayer dollars.

This is where the system finally breaks down.  For all of the play-pretend of the charters, any revenue from property tax millage that supports them has to come through the Orleans Parish School Board.  So, while the charters regularly flip off, ignore, and potshot at the public system run by the citizens, they have no independent access to revenues.  Recently the Board announced a small millage increase to raise another $4 million for the system.  Suddenly, the charters are all crying and whining, because they weren’t at the table and now want more in a sort of “have your cake and eat it too” move.

Let’s see.  The charters are dragging their feet about coming under the authority of the school system and the voters, but somehow while trying to delay their inevitable reentry into the democratically accountable system, want to see if they can beg for more money from the voters and have the elected board members carry their water, even while they run from their authority.  Shockingly to me, Stand for Children, run by an old friend Jonah Edelman, which has a newly organized chapter in the area is fronting for the charter cabal and trying to get a little petition forward to ask the board for more money while being silent on reentry, democracy, and accountability.

The millage is a fair number in our broke ass city, and this is a classic case of taxation for revenue where there is representation and not where there is none.   The whole charter model breaks down when it comes to accountability and democracy.   Our children need to learn that too!