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TV: New HBO Series Takes On Charters & Choice [corrected]

ScreenHunter_06 Apr. 27 01.25 Leave it to The Wire's David Simon to work some scathing dialogue about school reform into his new HBO series, Treme, set in post-Katrina New Orleans.  Here's a snippet from a father-daughter scene from the second episode:  

Where'm I gonna to go to school?
Tulane's working on something for faculty kids. Lusher.
Lusher's not a high school Daddy.
They're adding high school.
Plus it's public.
Not anymore, it's charter.
Where are they going to put the high school?
They're taking over Forshey Fortier.
What about the Forshey Fortier kids?  Where are they going to go?
Somewhere else, I guess.
That's not fair. Probably not.  That's where we're at now.You want to go to school in New Orleans?  So this is how it works.  It's a zero-sum world, honey. Somebody wins. Somebody loses.

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the story here is more complicated. but this is partly true.

It is true that Lusher got the Fortier campus in Uptown for its new charter high school. A little excerpt from a story I wrote for Ed Week from New Orleans in 2007:

When Aaronika Johnson came home from Memphis last August, she thought she’d go back to her old school, Alcee Fortier High in Uptown. It was among the lowest-performing high schools in the city, with an enrollment of 1,000 students, and was on the verge of being taken over by the state before the hurricane.

“All we found out was that there was a school in Alcee Fortier,” Ms. Johnson said, “but it wasn’t the school I’d gone to.”

In fact, her old campus had been taken over. Lusher School, which had been one of the few high-performing elementary and middle schools in New Orleans before Katrina, had become a charter school and wanted to start a high school in the building. With the approval of the Orleans Parish school board, Lusher, a selective-admissions school, moved into the Alcee Fortier campus to serve middle and high school students. Many are the children of faculty and staff members at the city’s Dillard, Loyola, Tulane, and Xavier universities.

For Ms. Johnson, as it turns out, the change to McDonogh High has not been so dramatic.

“There are a lot of people I didn’t know before,” she said, “but the classes and the teachers seem a lot like my old school.”

Love the new series but would have liked a more accurate description of the charter school. John Candy's line (the father) implies that the charter school is not a public school. As we know, all charter schools are public schools of choice. The distinction is that they have more freedom than traditional public schools.

It's also worth noting that Lusher is not part of the Recovery School District (ie the RSD, the primary public school system in New Orleans), which is the driving force behind the city's open admissions charter schools. Lusher is part of a much smaller district of "high performance" schools given to the local school district when the state took over schools after Katrina and set up the RSD. The majority of public school students in New Orleans go to RSD schools, and the majority of RSD schools are (open admission) charter schools. That is where the real the education reform movement is happening in New Orleans right now.

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