The insidious thing about charterization is that it not only destroyed the union but it also set workers on a long struggle to claw it back independent school by independent school. Nearly twenty years have passed and so far they've won 6 out of 71 schools back.
Living School joins Rooted School, International High School, Bricolage Academy, Morris Jeff Community School and Ben Franklin High School as organized collective bargaining units. Teachers in New Orleans who do not work at a unionized school can join United Teachers of New Orleans.
A small percentage of New Orleans' 71 charter schools are unionized. After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of public school teachers were fired and schools were taken over by the Recovery School District or transformed into charters, ending the contract between the city and the union.
And, of course, in the meantime, there have been thousands of lives uprooted and communities destroyed by the charter project that will never come back. Also one of the primary villains in this plot is about to be elected mayor of Chicago today.
When Vallas went to New Orleans in 2007, the city was still reeling from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, which had made landfall two years earlier. In 2003, a Democrat-controlled Louisiana legislature had taken control of schools across the state by establishing the Recovery School District (RSD), which took over “underperforming” schools, the majority of which were initially in New Orleans.
The RSD fired the district’s teachers, who were unionized and mostly Black, middle-aged professionals, and replaced them with younger, whiter, out-of-town TFA recruits. Dix Moore-Broussard, a longtime arts teacher in New Orleans, told the TRiiBE that after Katrina, the district laid everyone off. (In 2010 Duncan, who was then secretary of education, said Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.”)
“We got notice that they weren’t opening the schools and we could go pick up our last check,” she said. “Everybody just got $2,000, and it was the most insulting thing ever.”
But hey 6 of the 71 privatized schools now have their own little unions. Celebrate the little victories, I guess, but there's no justice here.