Publication Date

April 2016


Jonathan Cutler




English (United States)


Slamming the southeast coastline of Louisiana on August 23, 2005 at 174 miles per hour, Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans. While the storm brought great tragedy, local and state forces spurred transformation of a number of government led programs in its aftermath. Under the direction of Governor Bobby Jindal's administration and the Louisiana State Department of Education, policy reforms were written and the governing Recovery School District expanded. These actors used the crisis as an opportunity to reshape public schooling in the Crescent City – as an experimental site by which to motivate great change. Hope for education reform in New Orleans was supported by the conversion to a fully charter run system, the construction of a centralized enrollment system, the hiring of an entirely new workforce and a renewed focus placed upon discipline in elementary, middle and high schools. However, the transformation was hindered by white middle class families, who in an effort to maintain some semblance of control and exclusivity, carved out their own educational enclaves under the leadership of the Orleans Parish School Board. The influence of the Orleans Parish School Board is surprising, given they represent the minority in a city with a population that is about sixty percent African American. Through sustained determination to conserve existing classroom and neighborhood catchment areas, the white minority has been able to perpetuate school-based segregation as a mechanism by which to preserve their privilege. As a result, the transformation of the New Orleans public educational system has halted – where it can and will go next remains unclear.



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