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No Rush to Return to Local Control in New Orleans

Will a locally elected board run the majority of public schools again in New Orleans? The prospects for that any time soon aren't looking too likely in light of remarks late last week from Paul Pastorek, Louisiana's schools chief.

Pastorek is the ultimate authority over the state-run Recovery School District, which took over most of the city's schools after Hurricane Katrina hit. In an interview with a Times-Picayune reporter, he said most of NOLA's schools, which have just begun the arduous process of "turning around," should continue operating under the state for several more years.

"We've begun an upward trajectory, but it's going to take more time to stabilize that, " Pastorek told the T-P. "It's a little early to say whether the Orleans Parish School Board is in a position to maintain that upward trajectory."

He has to make a recommendation some time next year about what the future governance of the city's schools ought to be.

It seems that about half of NOLA's residents may agree with Pastorek. In a poll conducted by the Council for a Better Louisiana, 51 percent of respondents said they didn't think the old school board should be able to reclaim public schools, once they were told that more high school students are graduating and fewer schools are failing.

But what looks like an even more solid indicator for shunning the old board is the popularity of charter schools, which roughly 60 percent of the city's public children now attend. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed said they support charters, while 64 percent said they'd like to see more of traditional public schools converted to charters. The poll surveyed 500 registered voters in the city; 59 percent were African American and 39 percent were white.

Since the storm, the Orleans Parish School Board has run only a handful of schools that were not chronic underperformers. The board also oversees a dozen charter schools. Though the board has several new members, it may take years to shake off its legacy of corruption.

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