12/11/2010

New Orleans Schools Still Failing Thousands of Children

Last week Superintendant Paul Pastorek responded to our new report, "Access Denied," which documents the experiences of New Orleans public school students and their families and exposes numerous systemic failures, by calling it an attempt "to influence the state education board." This, he got right. We certainly hope the experiences of children and families in the public school system influence all decisions made by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Pastorek also claimed that these issues had already been addressed and that the report was really about local control over the schools.

This, he got terribly wrong.

The real issue is that too many New Orleans students still struggle to access even the most basic education services, while others suffer under brutal disciplinary practices.

Although there has been some progress on the latter in RSD schools, to truly address this issue, all schools -- both charters and direct run -- must adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward abusive security policies and tackle their astronomical suspension and expulsion rates.

In addition, the LDE must finally make a real effort to improve services for students with disabilities.

Until these issues are fully addressed, education reform in New Orleans will continue to leave thousands of students behind.

Shakti Belway
Southern Poverty Law Center
New Orleans

This letter to the editor was printed in the Times Picayune.