Recovery of New Orleans Schools Depends on Increased Federal Involvement, Report Says

According to a new report from the , gains made over the past four years with respect to New Orleans public schools could be lost if the federal government fails to deliver on its commitments, the reports.

The report, (38 pages, PDF), found that while only 4 percent of federal disaster relief aid provided to the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina has gone to education, New Orleans — the only city in the country where a majority of public school students attend privately run charter schools — has made progress in reinventing its schools. Some of that has been made possible by the , which this year committed $165 million toward the city's school infrastructure and also provided money to open a new charter elementary school in August.

Despite such efforts — and the government's failure to properly construct and maintain the city's levees, a failure that led directly to the destruction of many schools — federal commitments to New Orleans schools have been insufficient and/or inexcusably delayed, the report says. At the same time, the report notes, New Orleans could serve as a crucial test of whether a public education system composed primarily of autonomous charter schools can succeed over the long term.

"There's a lot of Katrina fatigue in D.C. right now, and the economy has obviously changed since 2007," said Southern Education Foundation vice president Steve Suitts, who co-authored the report. "[New Orleans] is an obligation which I think the nation tends to want to forget, and that's why we decided to help remind them."

Sarah Carr. "." New Orleans Times-Picayune 10/14/2009.