Thursday, June 11, 2015

The 54% blank slate

The "volunteer entrepreneurs" who have taken over your public schools also own the historical data.  Or, more accurately, they own the prerogative to make it up and have it stick.
Founded in 2008 by long time charter school advocate. ex-state Recovery Board member and ex-insurance kingpin Leslie Jacobs and her husband/recent patronage member of Mayor Landrieu's inner network Scott Jacobs, Educate Now! is a "nonprofit" geared towards the distinctly familiar combination of advocacy, analysis, and data aggregation one would expect from any Washington think tank.

Though NOLA.com would almost certainly dismiss as bias a Louisiana Federation of Teachers funded data center, one created by a long time advocate and charter school founder wasn't just a reliable source, it was now New Orleans's go-to authority on all things education. That their headquarters, according to IRS documents, were simply the couple's tasteful million-dollar home on Charles Ave wasn't important. That their entire stream of funding, also according to IRS documents, came from only themselves was unimportant. What was important was that they had a website with numbers and charts, and this website had an obligatory smiling black kid and a kickass bio page and a blog. The fact that it was run, entirely without oversight, out of the spare bedroom of two noted partisans seemed immaterial. I was desperate for the 54.4% graduation figure, and I didn't care who could source it.

Ms. Jacobs's answer, however, was less than satisfactory.
Like some kind of PR folklore, low graduation rates pre-Katrina just were. Passed down from marketing hack to marketing hack, the internet had allowed for a kind of oral history that was good enough for Ms. Jacobs and Nola.com, and thus everyone else who cited it. And though my follow up emails to Ms. Jacobs have yet to be returned, the Louisiana Department of Education got back and their verdict was clear: No such data officially exists.
They're the enterepreneurs in charge charter schools. The local press loves entrepreneurs and charter schools. Therefore they are the authoritative source.  Whatever they want to say in order to mythologize the "blank slate" world they're building their neoliberal utopia on top of seems to be fine.

There's much much more in that post. It's an excellent summary of post-Katrina opportunism in public education. Go read it

Notice, though, the pattern I've been trying to establish in recent posts remains consistent.  Local elites, armed with policies developed in conservative think-tanks moved quickly to set the work of remaking the city to their liking in motion even as its neighborhoods were still flooded and its people were still scattered.  And now they pretty much run everything. Was there ever any question it would be this way?

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