Much to the dismay of many (including both congressional Pauls) who openly wish for its demise, the Department of Education has managed to survive another year. Yesterday marked 32 years since President Jimmy Carter signed it into law.
Last year, when it was only 30 going on 31, the DoE's boss, Arne Duncan, said this about Hurricane Katrina's effects on New Orleans schools:
I spent a lot of time in New Orleans, and this is a tough thing to say, but let me be really honest. I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina. That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that 'we have to do better.' And the progress that they've made in four years since the hurricane is unbelievable.
For the record, since the storm, the city's educational system has evolved into one that is three-quarters charter schools, and has all but silenced the teachers' union. Last week, the New York Times editorial board picked up the Education Secretary's rhetorical baton, quoting positive statistics and attributing them to the aftermath of Katrina:
Many of the structural changes occurred because the hurricane essentially destroyed the old system, allowing the city to begin fresh. Charter schools, while a foundation of the system now, did not by themselves improve achievement. And finally, New Orleans has done the hard work of changing the school culture while embracing new instructional methods.
"Fresh" meaning the firing of every teacher in the city, the driving out from the city's schools more than 100,000 mostly African-American children, the busting of the teachers union, and the creation of a new two-tiered school system around a core of privately-managed charters. There is no evidence offered by the Times showing that these charters are any better...So this is what reform is, according to the education experts at the Times. Create a system of schools that are "frequently worse" than traditional schools. Have kids stay in these schools longer and have mostly inexperienced and unqualified TFA teachers teaching poor kids "study and time management skills." I can only imagine what would happen if this recipe was foisted upon white, middle-class parents. But don't worry. It never will be.