Vallas and charter schools are part of the plan to destroy public education in New Orleans

Paul Vallas is about to become head of the New Orleans public schools, and it couldn’t happen to a more appropriate candidate.

1. Vallas is a union buster. The United Teachers of New Orleans was one of the most powerful unions in the right-to-work state of Louisiana. The Bush administration, in conjunction with the Louisiana legislature (Republicrats and Demopublicans) voted to abolish the public schools of New Orleans, effectively destroying the union — and that part of the power of the city’s middle class.

2. The public schools of New Orleans are being replaced, for the most part, with charter schools. These charter schools refuse to accommodate all of the children who need schools. As a result, the destruction of the middle class continues in the communities. Families that choose to return are barred from school by charter school “admissions” policies and enrollment caps. In this case, too, most of the families and children barred are black.

3. The Chicago charter school people, led by Greg Richmond and joined by UNO (United Neighborhood Organization, a racist — i.e., anti-black — community group based in Chicago’s Mexican communities), have been helping New Orleans do this to the public schools (and the unions). A good analogy to this is the work of the “Chicago Boys” in Chile 30 years ago, after the CIA coup d’etat that destroyed the Allenda government and put the Pinochet dictatorship in power. Similarly, the New Orleans public school situation is a massive experiement in “market” forces and “choice,” all under a similarly dictatorial regime. Vallas’s arrival completes the reactionary team now in place in New Orelans.

4. Chicago’s charter schools have a much higher percentage of white teachers than the public schools they have been replacing. This is part of a similar attack in Chicago to the one that is going on in New Orleans.

A big of Chicago history is necessary to put this in perspective.

By the 1980s, the majority of staff in Chicago’s public schools were black. These people, who ranged from custodial workers to teachers and administrators, had generally come up from the South (for Chicago, most notably Mississippi) during the “Great Migration” after World War II, sacrificed greatly to get an education (and often advanced degrees) and work their way up through the Chicago public schools bureaucracy. Like New Orleans later, Chicago’s black teachers and other school workers (all unionized) were a backbone of the city’s black middle class. Teachers were among the most effective political workers on behalf of Harold Washington in the key 1983 election that made him Chicago’s first black mayor.

The goal of the Daley administration has been to wipe out that power. Now Vallas is in New Orleans to do the same work for the same people. 


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