Prior to hurricane Katrina New Orleans’ public schools were in total disrepair. The system was plagued with every possible problem you can imagine. Why? I’m betting you can guess: this was a major urban public school system serving mostly poor people of color. If you were the son or daughter of one of the city’s better-off families you probably went to a private school, or else you lived in the suburbs where the educational system is much better off.

Katrina laid waste to the public schools. The private schools located in higher/drier neighborhoods sustained relatively less damage and have already re-opened. Many of the public schools have been commandeered by parents and neighborhood groups and turned into charter schools, but it’s unlikely that these schools will serve the majority of youths in the New Orleans area. Again, they’re mostly going to serve the city’s better-off residents.

On September 7th only 15 public schools will reopen in New Orleans. New Orleans is scrambling to hire teachers. The Times-Picayune reports that they have hired no one as of today.

Any takers out there?

It would be an amazing opportunity to work in a seriously damaged community. It would be hard as hell and probably equally rewarding if you can manage the insanity of teaching in a seriously under-funded, segregated and troubled urban school system. (Think Jonathan Kozol). You’d be working with some direly underprivileged students. It would be some seriously righteous work if you’re up for it.

What would you be paid?

You’d be paid the going rate that most teachers get – peanuts.

30K/year with a bachelor’s degree. If you have a Master’s they’ll give you an extra grand. And if you decided to make a career of it, if you spent 25+ years dedicating your life to education? They’d pay you no more $50k.

Or you could go work at Harrah’s Casino on Canal Street, dish out booze or cards to drunk gamblers and make more money.

Why are our priorities so wrong?

I rode by William Frantz Elementary School in the 9th Ward yesterday. It was the sight of one of the nation’s most well known integration struggles in 1960. Doesn’t look like Frantz is opening in September, there’s probably not enough money to clean it up. There’s still a waterline from the floods ringing the building. Harrah’s is open and doing pretty good business though.

As I walk around this city I can’t help but think of all those phrases that have been floating around lately: “Disaster capitalism.” “Casino capitalism.” Whatever happened to the idea of well funded public education, integrated and equitable for all children, regardless of their zipcode, skin color, or parent's income?

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