Cross-posted from In These Times
After Hurricane Katrina washed over New Orleans, many survivors had virtually nothing left to lose. But the city’s teachers were then hit by the storm’s ripple effect: the loss of thousands of jobs in the tattered school system. Recently, a civil district court ruled that the state had effectively robbed thousands of school employees of funds that were supposed to help tide them over as the city recovered.
After Katrina, the New York Times reports, most New Orleans schools were taken over by the state’s Recovery School District, which absorbed a stream of federal aid while the local school board was left impoverished:
In December 2005, the local school board, with few schools and little money in its control, passed a resolution firing 7,500 school employees, who at that time had been on “disaster leave without pay,” an employment status that Judge Julien found in her decision to be “fictional.” She concluded that the state was liable for rendering the local board unable to fulfill its contractual obligations to its workers.
The ruling could lead to major payments to teachers whose careers and wages were upended by the purge. But aside from recompense for “disaster leave,” New Orleans public schools will remain adrift in a flood of drastic reforms. After Katrina, the city became an incubator for non-unionized charter schools and “experimental” restructuring plans.
But rather than “saving” New Orleans schools from failure, the overhaul has aggravated dividesbetween black and white, wealthy and poor, by pushing schools to operate more like corporations. Read the rest of this entry →