Taken together, the article written by Dixson, Buras, and Jeffers (2015) and the article Beabout and Gill (2015) reveal how the proliferation of charter schools in New Orleans has negatively impacted a myriad of stakeholders in New Orleans. More specifically, the articles demonstrate how the voices of parents, students, and teachers alike have been muted by conversion of public schools into charters in New Orleans.
In their article, Dixson, Buras, and Jeffers (2015) unveil the detrimental effects that converting New Orleans’ public schools into charters had on the large black-majority population and highlight the ways that white stakeholders controlled and benefitted from the process. Following Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans’ Recovery School District (RSD) decided to “reform” public education by firing several thousand black teachers and administrators and replacing them with what the authors call “young and predominantly white transplants” (Dixson, Buras, and Jeffers, 2015, p. 289). Thus, black educators were removed from the sphere of public education in a way that benefitted white teachers and administrators coming from programs such as Teach for America and New Leaders for New Schools (Dixson, Buras, and Jeffers, 2015). Further, many students felt that the new teachers lacked cultural understanding that came from being both black and local to the New Orleans community as many of the new white educators had come from the North (Dixson, Buras, and Jeffers, 2015). The voices of black parents, students, and community members were also silenced or ignored when the RSD made the decision to convert schools to charters. For example, when parents, students, and alumni protested the conversion of Frederick Douglass High School because of its students’ community and political engagement and its history as a site for Black student protest during the 1960s, their voices were ignored and Douglass was repurposed into a KIPP charter school (Dixson, Buras, and Jeffers, 2015). Even worse, former students were barred from attending the new school and the school name which had been “selected by members of the school community,” was removed when the school was renamed KIPP Renaissance High School (Dixson, Buras, and Jeffers, 2015, p. 292). Thus, the history and traditions that were of significance to community members were overlooked by “white reformers” and did not benefit the majority-black students of Douglass (Dixson, Buras, and Jeffers, 2015, p. 292).
Beabout and Gill (2015) deepen the research published by Dixon, Buras, and Jeffers by showing the negative effects that the new charter schools have had on both veteran and new teachers in New Orleans. More specifically, the authors examine the ways that charter schools’ aversion to teacher unions undermine the teachers in the New Orleans schools. Once the state took over New Orleans’ public schools after Katrina, many teacher unions like the United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO) lost the contracts that allowed them to represent teachers (Beabout and Gill, 2015). Thus, many teachers were left to deal with arbitrary firings and pay scales without proper representation or a means for collective bargaining (Beabout and Gill, 2015). Even further, in the school studied by Beabout and Gill (2015), teacher input was not only ignored but strongly discouraged when it contradicted the actions taken by the principal. Thus, not only were community members ignored when the charter schools were being implemented as shown by Dixon, Buras, and Jeffers (2015), but even within the new charters that were created, teachers’ input and voices were dismissed and decisions were made only from the top of the administration (Beabout and Gill, 2015).
Beabout, B. R., & Gill, I. (2015). Why Here and Why Now? Teacher Motivations for Unionizing in a New Orleans Charter School. Journal Of School Choice, 9(4), 486-502. doi:10.1080/15582159.2015.1079467
Dixson, A. D., Buras, K. L., & Jeffers, E. K. (2015). The Color of Reform: Race, Education Reform, and Charter Schools in Post-Katrina New Orleans. Qualitative Inquiry, 21(3), 288-299. doi:10.1177/1077800414557826