Nine years after the state takeover of our schools, parents find themselves standing in line for education.
This post was going to be very different. I was going to write about how my day started. I just deleted what I’d written because of a text I received from a parent today.
In the text she writes:
“I don’t think I will be there tomorrow I can’t handle all those people. I have flash back from Katherine when we had to stand in line for food &water for our children in the heat now we have to do it for education . So every Charte school can get a head count to get there money that’s not beneficial to our Kids .”
No, I did not correct Katherine, I know she meant Katrina nor fix the spelling and grammar errors. It’s a text message, not a business letter. I simply cut pasted her text message into this post. This is a real, living breathing parent, who wants the best for her child, just like all of the parents I saw today.
The Recovery School District was not prepared as about 800 parents showed up to enroll their children in school through their common enrollment process called One App. I wonder if the RSD understands that they are re-traumatizing New Orleans parents, over and over again as they try-out running a school system, and get it wrong, over and over again. It reminded me also of a time several years ago when there weren’t enough seats for children in January of 2007. We’ve been here before, for me, it’s another post Katrina flashback.
Then my phone rang. After this call I wanted to delete what I had just written, but I didn’t. This call was the second of the day from a parent I’d met earlier at the Recovery School District Family Center. She’s a lovely mother who is totally blind. (her words, not mine) She spent more than 3 hours standing in the hot sun with her 8 year old, only to be turned away and told to come back tomorrow to a different location.
While that might be an inconvenience for most, it’s a true hardship for this mother. Many of our parents have transportation challenges, and for this mother it’s no different. Well, maybe it is, she’s blind so she can’t just get in her car or hop on a bus without assistance. She needed to get someone to bring her to the every where she needs to go and have them wait with her, or find someone else to bring her home. If that were not challenging enough, what she shared with me next, knocked me off my feet. To be in today’s lines, also meant that she had to make sure there was a nurse at home with her 18 month old who has cerebral palsy, a feeding tube and a brain shunt. It won’t be easy for this mother to simply show up tomorrow. She asked me to “put her business in the street” if it will help her get a 2nd grade spot at Behrman Charter school. She’ll accept Alice Harte Charter School also. These are her choices. She said she can’t put her child “just anywhere” because she has ADD and she needs teachers who really understand how to work with a child like hers.
Parents want to be able to choose the school that best fits their children’s needs. After all, we’ve all heard about this all choice system in New Orleans. This is now a system of choice. We have charter school proponents who say that if a parent doesn’t like their current placement, they can choose another one tomorrow. Today’s long lines in the hot New Orleans sun shows us that it’s just not that easy. At the request of this spunky visually impaired mother, I put her request on Twitter about 6 hours ago. I’m still waiting for a school to let me know that they can’t help this parent. I’m still waiting for the One App office to make some reasonable accommodation for this parent with a disability so that she won’t have to wait more hours for a seat that may not even exist.
Nine years after the takeover, I don’t think it’s too much to ask of the state controlled, Recovery School District, to provide high quality choices for parents, who are trying to educate their children in the newly transformed, open enrollment, choice driven public school system in New Orleans. Certainly, it’s unconscionable that the RSD would have parents wait hours in the hot New Orleans sun for education just like they waited nine years ago for food and water in those days after Hurricane Katrina.
I sure hope this pain in my chest goes