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New Orleans

Howard Fuller Explains What’s Happening in New Orleans

https://youtu.be/3gM3pk8skEg Over the past 10 years, New Orleans’ public school landscape has undergone an extreme makeover, where many of the active new voices among the city’s residents are white and non-native. Most white policymakers and reformers who were—and maybe still are, even after 10 years—considered outsiders, made big decisions in the name of improving the a failing public education system and on behalf of black children in New Orleans. With the mass overhaul of traditional education into a choice-driven public charter school system, New Orleans has proven that another system can exist, and with substantial investment and accountability—can work! This new identity has influence far beyond the Crescent City. Everyone wants to know, “What’s happening in New Orleans, is it a model for the rest of the country?” That is the question Campbell Brown poses to Dr. Howard Fuller. Campbell Brown, editor-in-chief of The Seventy Four, recently interviewed Dr. Fuller on the state of education reform. Dr. Fuller—a civil rights activist and champion for the people of New Orleans—spoke candidly about the city’s schools and the need to empower the communities most impacted by reform efforts over the past 10 years. Dr. Fuller outlines three important things we need to know.
  1. There is nothing like New Orleans in the rest of the country. There was no other place where the entire district was wiped out.
  2. The level of financial resources that have gone into New Orleans, both public and private resources, are at no comparable level anywhere else in the country.
  3. In the period post-Katrina there was progress, but also a tremendous amount of animosity. There are some people in NOLA that see black disempowerment. We have a lot of work to do.
The fast moving decisions post-Katrina created an environment, like Dr. Fuller suggests, that has left many community members with reason to believe that “reform was done to me and not with me”—creating an even more hostile culture around the discussion of race and education in board rooms and town hall meetings across the city. Changing this narrative requires supporting families to build an intersectional movement where we fight for all needs, where we train community leaders to represent parents in their school and community. I want to imagine a world where parents are sought after to serve on charter school boards and other decision-making bodies; whose perspectives are valued enough to produce policy recommendations for the Recovery School District and Orleans Parish School Board; where they have the collective power to hold these districts accountable. These are the actions that will sustain education reform. New Orleanians love their schools, school leaders and the city’s children—no doubt. As we look towards the next 10, parents must be engaged, empowered and have their voices fully integrated into decision-making processes.
Mary Moran is the co-founder of Our Voice Nuestra Voz (OVNV), an education advocacy and parent organizing start-up in New Orleans. An original version of this post appeared on Second Line Blog as Dr. Howard Fuller speaks on the New Orleans success story.
Mary Moran
Mary Moran is a member of Education Leaders of Color and the co-founder of Our Voice Nuestra Voz (OVNV), an education advocacy and parent organizing start-up in New Orleans. Mary’s passion to empower under-resourced communities came from her experience as an Afro-Latina attending schools in South Los Angeles. Mary brings 12 years of experience in organizing, classroom teaching and grassroots ...

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