Sunday, May 06, 2007

Paul Vallas and the Future New Orleans Schools Miracle

Posted at Schools Matter May 6, 2007:

There could not have a more appropriate finale to National Charter Schools Week than to have diehard EMO advocate, Paul Vallas, announced as the next superintendent of the distressed New Orleans Schools.

Even though you would never know it from reading the New York Times story on Vallas's new adventure and venture, he leaves an unimpressive privatization experiment hanging by a thread in Philadelphia, where a Rand study earlier this year showed the EMO-managed schools underperforming the public schools they were to replace--even though EMOs receive $450-$750 more per student, thanks to Vallas, than the public schools. (Philadelphia officials were less impressed by the Edison-sponsored study by voucher research chef, Paul Peterson, who turned himself into a psychometric pretzel once again in order to present a partly-sunny picture for Whittle.)

With Vallas's spending authority in Philly diminished as a result of a $73.3 million deficit that he created, and with the final vote on the EMO issue there slated for the coming week, perhaps it was high time for Vallas to move on to greener pastures. And there is none greener than New Orleans, where millions of greenbacks are to be made with fewer of those busybody citizens demanding to know how school money is being spent.

With the blessing of the White House to privatize the New Orleans Schools by whatever means, what better chance could Vallas ask for? Maybe this is where Chris Whittle will finally begin to realize his vision--and our nightmare. And perhaps Jeb Bush's investment of Florida state retirement funds will finally begin to pay off. Remember that story?
November 13, 2003—Acting through a captive money management firm, the Florida Retirement System--whose members consist primarily of public school teachers and other public-sector employees--will pay off the debts and buy out the shareholders of the for-profit education firm Edison Schools Inc., it was revealed Nov. 12.

Reported price tag: $174 million.

The Florida Retirement System is chaired by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, who supported the purchase despite vigorous objections from teacher unions and some investment experts. The decision to buy Edison, which has used school technology as a key sales point in its efforts to take over troubled public schools, is the most controversial move by the $92 billion pension fund since 2001. That's when the fund lost a reported $325 million buying plummeting shares of Enron stock.

In New York City on Nov. 12, Edison shareholders quickly approved the management-led deal. . . .


Sherman Dorn said...

I'm no fan of Paul Vallas: His operations of the Chicago Public Schools were typical of corporate-inspired centrist Democrats (something former CPS teacher George Schmidt and editor of Substance was attuned to some years ago). On the other hand, my understanding is that state Republicans in Pennsylvania were responsible for the privatization in Philadelphia—not Vallas.

On the third hand, there are very deep structural problems in NOLA schools, many of which predate Katrina and others are just being piled on now. I'm not sure Vallas has the skills for that, regardless of his other school management experiences.

Anonymous said...

If you bothered do to your research, you'd realize Edison took over the WORST schools in the Philadelphia School District. Everyone expects to see huge strides of achievement there but remember what they're up against. So when a RAND report says the Philly School District is doing better than the Edison managed schools....they better be, they gave away all of their problem schools and kept the prize winning ones.

Anonymous said...

For a new analysis of both the RAND and the Peterson studies, from professor Derek Briggs and the "Think Tank Review Project," see ""

Anonymous said...

The myth of Edison getting all the worst schools is not true. They got some of the worse schools just like the Philadelphia School District did. In nearby Chester they got 9 of the ten elementary schools and still could not make any headway. They got run out of Chester as a result.

Yes, the Republicans took over the Philly district, but only after years of money being squandered by the Democratic machine. The real shame is that politicians from BOTH parties have put their own interests before those of the children and teachers. Typical carpetbaggers pretending to solve Philly's problems.