Journalist Sarah Carr spent a year chronicling the lives of a skeptical teenager, a fresh-faced teacher, and a veteran principal in three separate charter schools in New Orleans for her new book, “Hope Against Hope.”
Some of the same players who orchestrated the makeover of public education in the Crescent City after Hurricane Katrina are trying to do the same thing in Baton Rouge, without the prompting of a natural disaster.
Supporters of the movement hold up charter schools as the salvation of American education. Critics say the overhaul will lead to its ruination. What Carr found was a lot of gray.
The history of education in the South is woven to the history of race. When whites saw public-school integration coming, many started private schools, sometimes called "segregation academies" – and they still play a role.
It’s been nearly 60 years since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, and the subsequent flurry of lawsuits forcing the desegregation of schools. Two recent studies—one from Stanford University, the other from UCLA—say that schools, particularly in the South, are becoming re-segregated after the lawsuits are settled. Louisiana’s East Baton Rouge Parish appears to be part of that pattern.
For-profit public school management is on the decline across the country. In 2007 about half of charter schools that entered into management contracts did so with a for-profit company. Three years later, that number fell by 25 percent. In New Orleans, all of the for-profits that came in to manage charters after Hurricane Katrina are now gone. Opposition to for-profit public schools in Mississippi is growing fierce.