Trying to Make Sense of the New Orleans School System

Growing up, I moved around a good bit so I’m a product of public school, private school, and department of defense schools all in different states and countries.

I’ve personally experienced them all and I think there are some big strengths, challenges and opportunities in each of them. I thought I had seen it all, that is until we moved to New Orleans. What I had not seen, though, was the New Orleans charter / lottery system. When we first moved here, people mentioned it. But, I’ll be honest, at age 24 with a one-week-old marriage and my husband just starting a 4-5 year medical training journey, the last thing on my mind was how schools would work for our family. Fast forward four years and we now have a one-year-old, and my husband is almost done with training. This means that we are seriously considering and researching where our next move will be, and school is a HUGE factor as the expectation is that wherever we end up, we’ll be there for the long haul.

Over the years here, and as I have gotten deeper into motherhood, I hear horror stories each year about the lottery system and where people want their kids to go to, how siblings are split up, and how way more families end up disappointed in the results than satisfied.

Now, I realize that this solution was in response to a very, very broken school system, but from a parent’s view, it doesn’t make me feel any better.

As someone who has “experienced it all,” I have personally always seen myself placing my kids in private school. However, I also recognize that the price for private school isn’t necessarily realistic for every family, especially as the number of kids go up. Growing up, it wasn’t an easy thing for my parents; they sacrificed so much to make sure that my sister and I had the best opportunities available for us, and I am so grateful for that exposure, hence my personal views on where my kids should go to school.

With that being said, my husband is a product of purely public school, and I’d say he’s doing pretty well for himself, as are so many other public school products. Whether our kids will go to public or private school has been a constant “argument” discussion in our 9 year relationship, 4 year marriage. While I have a haunch as to where this tale will end, I’m not certain, so wherever our next move is, it is absolutely critical for me to be in a place that if we do choose public school, a well-rounded option is readily available to my kid(s).

We love the city of New Orleans, but the uncertainty of what type school and education will be available to my little girl in a few years is really unsettling.

And it’s even more unsettling to think about what type of education will be available to those who can’t afford alternatives or are not knowledgeable about how the process works. I can say that each year I do hear about feedback regarding everything, and I hear about the school board making changes in response to that feedback, so I am hopeful that one day this problem will be “solved” and I know it is drastically improved since Katrina and continues to get better and better each year.

One Response to Trying to Make Sense of the New Orleans School System

  1. Niki October 23, 2018 at 5:56 pm #

    This system has not drastically improved. It’s a disaster. The charter concept is inherently racist and negatively impacts minorities mostly because those who do not have money to afford better are people of color.

    Add that many who are poor “choose” a school based on proximity due to transportation issues. Those schools closest to them tend to be lower-graded schools that will close in a year or two requiring their child to once again move schools.

    The charter school system is set up for many white administrators to capitalize off the miseducation of minorities. They make a lot of money running schools and networks into the ground. The result? They leave to open a school in a city they really want to live in, while disadvantaged populations are left behind wealthier peers. Their lack of education leads to generational poverty and lack of skills to do better in a city that still is struggling with inequality based upon race.

    There is also a severe lack of special education resources to handle kids who are behind. Finally many so-called educators in the city are “hobby” educators meaning they could not find a job in their major, and signed up for a microwave teaching program to earn a paycheck. This system is disgraceful; moving to another, more progressive city is the best option for a child. The private school system is mediocre as well.

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