Louisiana, the poster child for private school privatization

The poster child for charter school privatization is Louisiana. It started in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but the man-made education disaster has spread to the whole state.

Mattreichel wrote for FireDogLake 5 April 2012, Jindal Puts Louisiana’s Schools Up for Sale: ALEC’s Education Reforms Rammed Through

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has wasted no time this legislative session in pushing wide-reaching education reforms designed to expand the charter school footprint, while opening the door to vouchers and tying teacher tenure to student test results. In the early hours of the morning on March 23rd, after a marathon session, the Louisiana State House passed two bills that form the core of a wide-reaching education reform agenda designed to expand the charter school footprint, while opening the door to vouchers and tying teacher tenure to student test results. Governor Bobby Jindal wasted no time in pushing these reforms through in the first weeks of the legislative session, and the urgency with which he has advanced this agenda has infuriated teachers and left even some charter-school advocates alarmed. “The governor’s expression of urgency for these bills is specious at best. [They] did not have to be passed under cover of darkness,” says Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT) president Steve Monaghan. Even Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat who has been an avid charter school advocate, criticized the Governor’s haste: “I am by no means naïve, and know full well the Administration’s political advantage of pushing legislation through with as little debate as possible.” With these bills, Louisiana is set to join Florida, Ohio and Minnesota amongst the states that have enacted the most far-reaching of these school reforms. This marks the latest wave in a concerted nation-wide effort by right-wing advocacy organizations and their corporate supporters to ravage the public sector.

While “reform” usually has connotations of “making better”, in this case, “better” means more profit for private school companies, not better education for students.

Why would Louisiana’s legislators vote for something so counterproductive for education?

The last tidal wave of reform occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when authorities circumvented the process of debate by deliberating while large swaths of the population were still displaced. The changes enacted during that “Emergency Session” of the state legislature allowed for the vast majority of New Orleans’ public schools to be brought under the state-administered Recovery School District (RSD), which, in turn, facilitated the process of turning over management to private charters. In the meantime, the United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO) was effectively eviscerated, as the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) fired the entirety of its teaching staff after losing control of the bulk of its schools. Over the next few years, New Orleans became the nation’s first majority charter city: a bona fide model for school “reformers” keen on extending the “school choice” doctrine to the rest of the country.

This is textbook disaster capitalism. Literally. In Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine, she uses the beginnings of this charter school push in Louisiana after Katrina as one of her examples. Unlike the school “unification” we just fought off here in Valdosta and Lowndes County, Georgia, privatization proponents didn’t have to produce a disaster first, they had one ready-made, caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Klein was mostly writing about New Orleans. But that was just the start.

The current legislative initiative will effectively spread the New Orleans model to the rest of the state, while loosening administrative checks on charter governance and opening up a new arena of unaccountable education providers via the voucher program. This is part of a nation-wide process of special interests and right wing zealots promulgating legislation designed to attack one of the few remaining public pillars of this society. Their goal now is turning Louisiana into its pet project. Far from becoming a model for thoughtful school reform, the state is set to become an example of the havoc wreaked when elite interests are allowed to run rampant over the democratic process.

Next: who’s behind this, and not just in Louisiana? Hint: yes, it’s ALEC, the same that pushes private prisons, for the same reason: private corporate control for private corporate profit.