Step Up New Orleans Parent Union – It’s Time for Community Control To Come Back to New Orleans Public Schools

Empty Classroom” by Max Klingensmith is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

After 15 years of an unwanted state takeover era leaving New Orleans with a 100% charter school district, an eradication of neighborhood based schools, extreme busing of students, and massive school closures – we are now at a turning point that could spark the dawn of an era to reclaim our schools. 

Senate Bill 95 which is a measure to amend Act 91 by repealing the mandatory 2/3 majority vote of the Orleans Parish School Board to reject a recommendation by the Superintendent of  Schools by now letting the local elected school board to set their own policy in cases of  rejecting a recommendation by the Superintendent. It’s very critical that we successfully pass Senate Bill 95 into law to restore the democratic governance that our duly elected school board is constitutionally bound to uphold. Since the state takeover after Hurricane Katrina, the fabric of our democracy in our public education system has been obstructed. We have the current law – Act 91 – that enables the Superintendent the authority to override a rejection by the  school board for a recommendation to either close a school, renew or to not renew a charter school contract, or third party contracted entities.  

The Superintendent of schools is an appointed position that serves at the pleasure of the school board, to have current law that supersedes the authority of our duly elected school board is extremely unconstitutional. One example that exemplifies this process is the closing of Mary D. Coghill Elementary School. Superintendent Henderson Lewis brought a recommendation forward to close the school, not all school board members wanted the school  to close. Section F of Act 91 mandates that a 2/3 super majority vote is taken place to reject a  recommendation by the Superintendent which means a vote of 5 out of 7 school board members were mandatory to vote in opposition of the recommendation. Though the outcome was a vote of 4 – 2 to reject the recommendation to close – the vote did not stand to authorize a rejection for Superintendent Lewis’s recommendation; the closure of Mary D. Coghill  Elementary still went forward.  

Senate Bill 95 rectifies this unjust policy in Act 91. We will now have a duly elected school  board that will have the ability to set their own policy in cases of rejecting a recommendation by the Superintendent of schools. This restores more community control and democratic  governance for our duly elected school board. 

Today Senate Bill 95 will be heard on the floor of the Louisiana House of Representatives, this is the last step in the legislative process before being signed into law by Governor Edwards. This effort would not have been possible without the help of Sen. Joseph Bouie, Rep. Jason  Hughes, the New Orleans Legislative Delegation, and the Orleans Parish School Board. This is  what democracy looks like!

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