Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the Orleans Parish School Board operated 117 public schools in New Orleans. The public school district in Orleans Parish—New Orleans Public Schools—ranked among the lowest performing nationwide in a comparison of large urban public-school districts. In addition, the school district faced significant financial problems and was on the verge of insolvency. The physical condition of the school buildings varied significantly, with many in desperate need of renovation to meet even basic health and safety standards. The damage and disruption resulting from Hurricane Katrina brought a whole new set of challenges for the public school system while exacerbating existing problems. Hurricane Katrina caused enormous physical devastation to schools already in poor condition. Even more damaging was the interruption to the education of some 60,000 children and the dislocation of New Orleans’s families, teachers, and principals.
A Crisis Becomes an Opportunity
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, there is a oncein- a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild the entire New Orleans public-school system and transform it into a new world-class, inclusive educational system. Now more than ever, the people of New Orleans are determined to unite to improve their public schools, and supporters from all across the country and around the world are onboard to help. To seize this opportunity, Mayor C. Ray Nagin and the Bring New Orleans Back Commission appointed the Education Committee to develop a long-term plan for rebuilding the public education system.
A New Vision for Public Education in New Orleans
We can and must set ambitious goals and become a model for large urban public-school districts throughout the country. As a starting point, the Education Committee developed a long-term vision for public education in New Orleans. (See Exhibit 1.)
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