The RSD, the New Orleans Recovery School District that was formed just prior to Katrina and used as an excuse an opportunity to wrest control of local schools and school districts from Orleans Parish and school systems across the state, has failed but without much fanfare in the local or national media. Katrina and RSD were lauded by many folks, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, as the greatest thing to ever happen to New Orleans. Arne probably read about this or wrote this for the Common Core history books that have been produced to go alongside the Math, ELA, and Science texts. (If you thought Common Core ELA and Math were bad, wait until you get ahold of the History and Science Common Core curricula. Local historians need not apply but that’s an article for another time.)
What happened in New Orleans is not that dissimilar to what we have done in other political enterprises. It’s a very common tactic called bait and switch in sales lingo. A salesman or store advertises a ridiculously low priced good or service, but once you show up at the store you find they are all out of that special deal, but you are in luck, they have something even better in store for you, and you will get first dibs on it! You are made to feel special and lucky and hopefully forget all about the original reason for your visit. If this is done well, you don’t realize you’ve been had and that the original advertisement was just meant to lure people in for the real sale where they offload a substandard product or something much more expensive and that you perhaps don’t really need.. If this goes poorly you write about it on blogs and Facebook, tell your friends not to shop there, and perhaps make a stink about it and maybe the vendor will give you a rain check or dust off a few of the special deal they had tucked away for persistent (bitchy) customers.
If you want to think of a political situation (without getting too political about it) consider the recent Iraq war that was sold to the nation on the pretext of WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction.) The US public was told there were weapons that could kill them and their families. They were told that these weapons were about to be handed over to terrorists with a penchant and expressed desire to use them. This invasion was not long after we had been already attacked on 911 so we were primed for this message. We were told by many media accounts that this would be a quick and easy war and that it would ensure our safety and prosperity for generations to come with minimal losses. We were told we would be met as saviors and liberators (not unlike many Reformers tell their fresh recruits before sending them into poverty stricken warzones in the States.). We were also primed by our recent early successes in Afghanistan to accept this idea. We were also historically conditioned to believe this was true from our first war with Iraq (although with much different strategic objectives.) To be fair, Saddam Hussein did himself no favors by trying so hard to conceal his actions from inspectors and doing his best to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear technology at every chance he got. But we were still wounded as a nation and spoiling for another war, and the Bush Administration was more than willing to sell us one. When it didn’t pan out the way they had planned, they simply switched from eliminating the threats of WMDs to effecting a regime change and planting the flag of Democracy in the Middle East. As we can see from the rise of ISIS, and the slaughtering of Christians and other minorities at their hands, and the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis and many thousands of dead Americans and allied troops, this was not an easy war and we did not ultimately “win.” (At least not in my opinion) The “new mission and goals” that we scrambled for at the last minute to create an exit strategy for one of America’s most serious foreign policy blunders of all time, did not last. Some folks will say we should have stayed longer, but how long would have been enough? Decades? Centuries? These ethnic groups have been fighting for Millennia. All we accomplished by getting involved was to give them something to unify against to fight. Us. The US. But the point I am trying to make here is that politicians frequently change their goals once their original plans have failed. Some will lie to you on purpose, upfront, to get you go along. They know you would never fall for (or agree to) the real plan and objectives if you knew what their real goal was upfront.
This is exactly what happened in New Orleans with RSD. I can’t be sure which camp the folks behind RSD fall into. Did they know it would be a failure at the outset and simply sell the public on the idea of RSD so they could secretly usher in an era and invasion of charter schools? Did they finally realize having Statewide entities run local community schools was as horrible an idea as it sounds? Who can say? Perhaps it’s a bit of both. What I can tell you is that RSD failed as it was originally sold to Louisiana. RSD was sold as a way to temporarily take over public schools and get them on a solid academic footing before handing them back to their home parishes. RSD has never handed any schools back in the 11 or 12 years they have been in existence. Many, if not most of their schools, became worse than the schools they took over. In some cases much worse, and had to simply be closed as happened to many schools taken over in EBR that just hold empty desks now, or in New Orleans like John McDonogh. John Mac failed as an RSD school, and became arguably the worst school in Louisiana under Future Is Now and Steve Barr’s leadership. What has happened in New Orleans was not a great rebirth of public schools, but an unmitigated slaughter in favor of charter schools. RSD still controls the approval process and construction for new schools, but they don’t run any, anymore thankfully. Even RSD finally agreed that they were incapable and incompetent in those roles. Now that the invasion is complete, and the city has been conquered, and all the former teachers disbanded much like the US government backed Shiite Iraqi Government disbanded the largely Sunni Army to their ultimate dismay. Reformers claiming victory from the failure of their original plan now tell this was their plan all along. This is what they were hoping to achieve, a completely privatized education Mecca that all Reformers in the US and around the world can turn to 5 times a day and wave dollar bills at in homage – to the sanctity of what they built there.
Already the cracks and strain is showing. Parents are left to wait for days in the sweltering summer New Orleans heat in the name of choice – as choice is shown to be false; a heat inspired mirage. Some details still leak out from time to time. In my next post I will show you some. . .
If your state is considering something like the RSD, tell them no. You tell them it was a complete failure in Louisiana and RSD got out of the business of being RSD in New Orleans. At least make them admit their real goal is to close all public schools and open them as charter schools. Make them tell you what their real plan is, but don’t let them tell you that the RSD plan is a template for anything but failure. If I had to five RSD a letter grade, like the state gives all schools and districts in the state, I would give them an F. But I can’t. They are so bad, they don’t even exist. The RSD was a lie and charter schools were the switch. And just like the result of most bait and switch tactics, charter schools are more expensive, they aren’t what we needed or signed up for and probably won’t last very long before we need to replace them with something else even more expensive – but the salesmen are pretty happy.