NOLA Unification

The post below is by guest blogger Mike Goldstein.

Background here.  AEI here.  Kira Orange Jones here.  Andy Smarick concern here.
 
“NOLA had been leading the nation on the two essential elements of systemic reform. First, most of the city’s public education space was defined by the separation of operation and authorization; in the RSD, no entity was performing both functions. 
 
Second, nearly every city public school was on a performance contract with a non-district authorizer. That meant that most public schools were overseen by a body whose accountability judgment could be trusted because it wasn’t simultaneously running schools in competition with those it authorized.”
 
Today’s news from Los Angeles goes directly to Andy S’s point.  
 
I asked 3 NOLA insiders for their views.  
 
Person 1: 
 
“There’s a lot of hyperventilating about unification.  But I think the concern is mostly misplaced.  Yes, it could make some operators a little bananas.  But the new approach keeps pressure on the district to make progress, and has some amount of old school educators and reformers working together.  The looming threat is actually that mediocre establishment CMOs would fight to keep the status quo.  The test will be whether or not the local board has the fortitude to keep closing and opening in a saturated market.”
 
Person 2: 
 
“I’m quite concerned about unification.  Closing bad schools will, in fact, get harder.  Approving new schools become harder — if you’re a school operator struggling to hit your existing enrollment targets, why wouldn’t you try to influence things.  Consider appointed judges versus elected judges.  Both make mistakes, sure.  But appointed judges tend to stick with the merits.   Elected judges consider “how things look” as well.  Who will get elected to school board, now and over time?  People with aspirations for higher office, at least some of them.  Somehow NOLA will need to educate everyone on what a school board’s function should and should not be — that will be a mighty challenge.”  
 
Person 3 (a school operator)
 
“Quite honestly, unification doesn’t affect our schools much at all. A few months ago, I had two concerns: 1) that the district would not allow us to receive differentiated funding for our students with significant needs, and 2) that the board would not be supportive of the continued progress of reforms in the city.  #1 concern was eliminated as a concern a few months ago by a vote. #2 concern was reduced by our board elections a few weeks ago, wherein a majority of reform types were elected.” 
 
“That said, we could call that impermanent and shaky support.  But that’s no different from our current situation, in which the RSD is just as affected by the elections on our state board.”  

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