Thursday, October 02, 2008

Transparent Bias by Times-Picayune Editors [Updated]

I was looking forward to see how Darran Simon's recap of yesterday's contentious hearing at City Hall in today's paper.

I found it, eventually.

Hidden all the way at the bottom of page B-1.

School-closing plan fuels council anxiety

I don't think I'm just too close to the story when I say that the upcoming vote on the facilities master plan represents the most important event involving public schools since Katrina, or at least since the decision to create the Recovery School District itself. The plan will determine the capacity of New Orleans' public school system for decades. Nobody disputes that. Nobody disputes that funding does not exist for anything beyond the first phase ending in 2013. Nobody disputes that 'landbanked' schools will likely mean demolition and/or resale. Nobody disputes that 'landbanking' is certainly synonymous with closure, even if planners allude to maybe possibly some of the closed schools one day perhaps being considered to be brought back as schools through third party operators.

Those are facts, those are the stakes. Read the article and see for yourself.

Yet, the Times-Picayune determined that this was not a top story today. In fact, the Times-Picayune made the decision that this wasn't even the top education story today. On the front cover of this morning's paper was another story about the RSD, this one about the possibility that four more schools may be turned over to charter operators. Now I'm not arguing that this doesn't merit coverage, as there are certainly people critical of the operator selection process and the ubiquitous involvement of Steven Bingler's sister-in-law's New Schools New Orleans in anything involving charter schools. But is this story nearly as important as the poorly-conceived master plan for school closure?

ABSOLUTELY NOT. It's not even close.

But let's argue for a moment that both stories are important and deserve front cover attention. The T-P could have included both stories, the one about charterization and the other about school closures, but then they would have had to bounce this life-changer that was included amongst the day's top stories instead:

Groom gets feds to snap to attention

That breaking news headline is in regard to some asshole who wore a Navy uniform to his wedding even though he'd never served. Something to note in the third hour of your midday talk radio program? MAYBE. Something for the front page of a major metropolitan newspaper on a day where the city's public school system teeters on the brink of catastrophic planning? HELL NO.

Really bad, Times-Picayune. Really bad.


I'd also like to challenge an assertion by Paul Vallas included at the bottom of the closure article:

Vallas pointed out that only one existing occupied building -- Audubon extension -- is scheduled to be closed in phase one.

That's simply false. Even if Mr. Vallas is trying to make the point that all of the currently-occupied schools to be lanbanked under Phase 1 won't close until the end of the phase, he's still making a false claim. Phase I of the master plan runs from 2008-2013.

Let me count them all for you.


Elementary Schools - from page 90 of the official master plan.

McDonogh 07 - 2012
NO Free School - 2012
Arthur Ashe - 2012
Audobon Extension - 2012
McDonogh 28 - 2012
Dibert - 2012

High Schools - from page 94

Rabouin - 2012
McMain - 2012
Douglass- 2011

Vallas is right if he really meant that Audubon extension will be the first to be closed within phase 1 in 2010, but the currently operating Frederick Douglass High School will close soon after, in 2011. The reality is, however, that FDHS could close after this school year if doing so strikes the fancy of the school district. They are under no legal obligation to keep the school in operation and in fact, had not decided to keep the building open for this year until last May or June.


But perhaps nothing reflects the editorial bias of the Times-Picayune better than their absolutely ridiculous endorsements for this Saturday's Orleans Parish School Board Race. They pick the conservative establishment choice in every instance such a choice is available. Woody Koppel over Percy Marchand? You've got to be kidding me. Brett Bonin over either Amy LaFont or Davin Boldissar? A bad joke. Seth Bloom over Avis Brock? Totally ill-informed.

The Times-Picayune pretty much endorses the most conservative Board possible, the whitest Board possible, the most anti-union Board possible, the most pro-master plan Board possible.

Percy Marchand in District 6 and Amy Lafont or Davin Boldissar in District 3 are the only OPSB candidates that have taken the time to inform themselves about the consequences of this master plan document and have been brave enough to speak out forcefully with their concerns. Woody Koppel and Brett Bonin are opportunistic insiders looking to climb the ladder. It is imperative that they be defeated.

Times-Picayune editorial board: You're hurting the recovery of this city.

Absolutely infuriating!


Leigh C. said...

Actually, there was a charters article on the front page. I'm beginning to think that the idea (if there is ANY sort of ideology behind the farkakhte Master Plan) behind putting so many buildings on the chopping block is to force these communities to form charters, since that is where most of the money in education is going at this point. Going charter would also get the RSD and BESE off the hook in terms of accountability - they could be even more selective in determining who goes to those schools.

adrastos said...

welcome to NOLA, Eli. This is what the Picayune always does.

Pistolette said...

Unless you've faced having to attend one of Orleans Parish Public Schools or faced having to send your child to one, please don't insult the natives by pretending that what works in "public school usa" will work here. It won't. (I think Cliff made this pretty clear at the blogger conference).

The charter schools have salvaged education in Nola, and not only will I support them across the board, but I will send my children to one. The Orleans Parish School Board can expect my vote to be the most anti-union, pro charter one I can muster. As I see it, they destroyed an entire generation of children in this city, so if they want my support and trust, they will have to earn it by competing with the other schools - and that's the way it should be.

E said...

There's not one person running that is "anti-charter." I think some candidates are willing to be more candid about how our system allows for charter abuse. Don't choose to ignore what they're saying because you have some predisposed sensitivity to any and all criticism of charters.

As for voting anti-union, that is your choice. I believe in organized labor.

bayoustjohndavid said...

I'm certainly not going to pretend that the Orleans Parish School Board does an acceptable job, Pistolette, but I have doubts about your claims for the charters. The fact that the magnet schools that worked well as part of the system have all become charters probably skews the data in favor of the charters.

About the T/P's bias, anybody who saw Koppel's father getinsulted and vilified in blatantly racial terms ("Woody Koppel you are white liar") by the "Left Behind" crowd can certainly understand that endorsement. It might not be the right endorsement, but it's not a "You've got to be kidding me" endorsement. I'll admit to being a little biased in favor of Koppel because of what I've heard about his willingness to stand up to the DBE mafia at the S&WB, but if that influenced the T/P, one would expect some reporting on the whole corrupt system.

If you want to point out that the various charter school boards can be as corrupt and political as the OPSB, I'd start with the ACSA. The Picayune mentioned that it seemed to be Charles Rice who orchestrated Riedlinger's dismissal, but glossed over Rice's bomb-proof background. I'd check out Riedlinger's replacement thoroughly.

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