Educational renaissance of New Orleans, post… Katrina?

Via Captain Ed at Hot Air, don’t miss this documentary about the renaissance of the school system in New Orleans after the rebuilding of Katrina.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P12pgeV8ZQM%5D

Granted, this school system basically had nowhere to go but up. “As one person relates in this Reason TV video, one school had a valedictorian who could not pass a graduation exam in six attempts despite getting straight As in high school.”

In the comments, this nugget from the pseudonymous “MayorDaley”:

Guess who was was instrumental in changing the schools of New Orleans? No other than Paul Vallas, Superintendent of the Recovery School District of Louisiana, and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools. In 2002, Vallas narrowly lost the Illinois democratic nomination to none other than Rod Blagojevich. Davild Wilhelm, Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama were Blago’s top strategists and secured a victory for Blago. How odd.

Somewhat surprisingly to some (not so much to me), school choice is not a strictly liberal vs. conservative issue: as commenter Khorum points out, none other than the filmmaker who produced Al Gore crockumentary is putting out a film “Waiting for Superman” about America’s failing public schools and what to do about them. And unions are actually trying to strong-arm Paramount into suspending its theatrical release. Many of the parents interviewed in the movie are politically liberal.

On a related note, if you have 40 minutes to spare, watch John Stossel’s “Stupid in America“. Unbelievably, John Stossel (not known for Europhilia), points out that Belgian schools do much better at much lower cost per pupil. You see, Belgium has no such thing as school zone assignment to pupils: parents can send their children to any state school (or state-subsidized school) they want. Even within the state school system (or within the Catholic school system, for that matter) this creates internal competition on quality. The phenomenon, known to any American or Israeli parent, of buying or renting a house in function of the school districts tends to come as a big shock to any Belgian (or most Euro) parents who relocate to the USA.

Bloat in the NJ school system: an eye-opener

Just one example of the reverse Midas touch of the US government can be found here: Yes, there’s bloat in New Jersey public schools. Since 2001, the NJ school system added 3/4 of an employee for every additional student, with basically less than nothing to show for it.

[T]he real budget-buster has been health and pension costs. Between 2001 and 2006 (the latest year data are available), total benefit costs rose by a whopping 115 percent, adding several billion dollars to school costs.

After this runup, outlays are now a whopping $16,000 per student, nearly 60 percent above the national average. Jersey already was a leader in this spending category back in 2001; the spending spree has widened the gap, at great taxpayer cost.

There’s been little educational payoff. Performance on national education-assessment tests has been a mixed bag. On crucial eighth-grade reading tests, for instance, the percentage of Jersey students scoring at or above proficient in 2009 was just 42 percent, up slightly from 38 percent in 2005.

Let me get this straight. $16K/pupil and where 3 out of 5 kids can’t even read at grade level?!

FAIL.