The big moments of historical importance don’t go unremarked, but quieter milestones often pass with little notice unless we stop to commemorate them and note their significance. On July 1, one of those modest but meaningful events will occur when New Orleans marks a change that might sound like a dry bureaucratic reshuffling, but is in fact a remarkable event in the history of American education.
Recall that nearly 13 years ago, one of the effects of the Hurricane Katrinacataclysm was to largely wipe out the city’s abysmal public schools. New Orleans’s educational system was essentially rebuilt from the ground up as a laboratory for charter schools — not a school district with a few charters sprinkled among traditional institutions, but an almost wholly charter-filled system largely run by the state of Louisiana.
The Recovery School District experiment proved successful; New Orleans public schools have improved faster than those of any other city in the nation over the past decade. But 80 percent of the schools were run by the state’s Recovery School District. An indication of the RSD’s success — and of New Orleans’s resurgence as a thriving metropolitan center — is the state’s decision to hand over responsibility for the school district to a locally elected school board on July 1.
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