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Poll: Charters Improved New Orleans Public Schools, Majority of Residents Say

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By Denisa R. Superville. This story originally appeared on the District Dossier blog

Sixty-three percent of people responding to an annual poll on public education in New Orleans said they believed that charter schools had improved public education in the city.

When asked whether public schools were getting better, worse, or staying the same, 36 percent of those who responded said that schools were getting better; 31 percent said they were staying the same; and 19 percent said they were getting worse.  

Caucasians were more likely to think the schools were getting better, with 43 percent of white voters saying that the schools were improving. In contrast, 31 percent of African-Americans thought the schools were getting better and 23 percent thought they were getting worse. Only 15 percent of white voters thought the schools were getting worse.

Forty-three percent of respondents gave the city's public schools a C grade, while 23 percent gave them a B. Seventeen percent gave them a D.

Those are some of the findings from "What Happens Next? Voters' Perceptions of K-12 Public Education in New Orleans," released Tuesday by The Cowen Institute at Tulane University.

The latest poll results come more than 10 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and upended the local school system. In the hurricane's wake, the state expanded the Recovery School District, which eventually assumed control of the majority of public schools in New Orleans.

Today, the Recovery School District oversees 52 schools, all of which are charters, while the Orleans Parish School Board runs six schools and oversees 18 charter schools.

Last year was the first year that any charter school in the Recovery School District voted to return to the Orleans Parish School Board. Five others are debating whether to do so in the next academic year, according to the report.  And what school governance would look like in the city in the future is a subject of debate in policy circles and the legislature. 

According to the poll, 38 percent of respondents said that they would like the RSD schools to return to the Orleans Parish School Board by 2018. Among African-Americans, that number was 43 percent. Thirteen percent of all respondents said the return should be after 2018, and 32 percent would keep the status quo.  

Whites were more likely to want to keep the current system, with 40 percent of Caucasian respondents saying they wanted to maintain the status quo. 

Forty-one percent of respondents said they believed that the Orleans Parish School Board was capable of effectively managing all of the city's public schools and the common enrollment system that was designed to make applying for, selecting, and enrolling in schools easier for families. The RSD is currently responsible for overseeing the common enrollment system. Thirty-five percent did not believe that the Orleans Parish School Board could do so. Twenty-four percent of respondents were not sure.

The poll also captured residents' opinions on the common enrollment system (62 percent said they believe the policy had a positive effect on public education), voters' perception of both school systems, among others. You can access the full report here.

The telephone survey of 600 voters was conducted between March 31 and April 5. The sample included both public school and private school parents.

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