This is a guest post by our intern, Dan LeTendre, who has spent some time poring over state legislation and the RSD’s and BESE’s regulations.
The Recovery School District (RSD), which controls the vast majority of public schools in New Orleans, is fast approaching a critical deadline which marks the first opportunity for the those schools to be returned to local control.
In September, the RSD is required by the language of Act 35 to submit a report to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) which must include the status of each transferred school: nature of faculty and administration, demographics and size of student body, organizational and management structure, and whether there has been improvement in academic performance, how much, or why not. It must also include one of the four following recommendations: (1) the school continues operation in RSD under its reported status, (2) continued operation in RSD with some change in its operational status, and the nature of such change, (3) the school should be closed and reasons therefore, or (4) the school should be returned to the transferring system (in this case, Orleans Parish School Board) with proposed stipulations and conditions for return.
Act 35 also requires the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to take action on the RSD’s recommendation no later than six months prior to the end of the five-year initial period of transfer. Ultimately, BESE has complete authority over whether schools are maintained in RSD or returned to local control. If they choose to keep the school in RSD, it will remain there for another five-year period, unless the state board adopts a lesser time period.
If a decision is made to maintain the school in RSD, and the school is still Academically Unacceptable after another four years, BESE is required by its own regulations to take one of the following actions: (1) revoke all school approval, (2) require RSD to terminate the operational arrangement and provide a different operational arrangement, or (3) return the school to the original transferring system.
It appears that there is very little concrete process that requires BESE and RSD to return public schools to local control. Even at the points where it is made possible, after the initial five-year period, and after that, if it continues to be Academically Unacceptable for another four years, return to local control is listed as the final option. The other options available at those times amount to the closing of the schools, or to change the way the school operates in some non-specific way. There also does not seem to be a mechanism to remove a school that has become “successful” from the jurisdiction of the RSD. The vagueness in the options which call on RSD to change its operational status appears to allow the RSD to continue administrating failing schools indefinitely as well. In all cases, the decision to move a school from the RSD back to local control is completely at the discretion of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
-Daniel N. LeTendre
Dan LeTendre is the Assistant for Legislative Affairs and Development at the Institute for Quality and Equity in Education. In this capacity he is tasked with reviewing legislation and keeping abreast of legal developments related to public education in New Orleans. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he will begin taking classes at Marquette University Law School in the fall.