New Watchdog for Charter Schools

The Lens, the first non-profit journalism venture in New Orleans, was launched by co-founders Ariella Cohen and Karen Gadbois in 2009.

Last night, August 25, the on-line newspaper hosted a gathering called the Summer Salon Focus on NOLA Charter Schools at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities building on Lafayette Street to announce their newest investigative venture. They will assign a corps of reporters to cover every Charter School Board meeting in New Orleans.

The Lens admitted that their first hurdle will be obtaining schedules from the schools, which has been a bone of contention for parents and anyone else attempting to lift the "veil of transparency" that hangs over most of these independent charters. Charters are public schools and subject to the Freedom of Information Act, Public Meetings Law and other regulations for public entities. The information should be filed with the Secretary of State's office and The Louisiana Association of Public Charters should have the information regarding their membership, but . . .

The Lens entertained questions from the audience last night. The host commented that some charter board members have told him they are learning how complex it is to run a school. One guest commented: "Some are 'baby' boards, just learning - will they be held to the same standard (by The Lens) as experienced boards?" The response was that if the board has been operating for four years and they aren't doing something they are supposed to - we will say, "Can I show you state law?"

If a charter operator opens a school, they should be thoroughly informed about state law and how to educate children. Unfortunately that expectation is not shared by some of the public and the Department of Education. The children enrolled in these schools don't have four years for the operators, administrators or teachers to get their acts together!!! Perhaps the accountability that BESE claims to have for their charters will include some up close and personal participation after the October elections. They do, after all, have responsibility for overseeing the RSD schools.

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COMING SOON - TheLensNola.org/charterschools

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