NOT NOW – Say NO to HB 166

House Bill 166 (Rep. Bouie, D-New Orleans) passed the Education Committee by the slimmest of margins and will now go to the House for a vote.

If enacted, HB 166 would require RSD New Orleans schools that are no longer failing to return to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) as early as this fall.

OPSB is not ready for the return of these schools.

OPSB’s new superintendent, Henderson Lewis, Jr., has said he isn’t sure yet whether the district would be ready for the transfer of schools.

In an interview with The Advocate, Lewis pointed out that some of the most important functions of any central office in a charter-dominated school system are still carried out by RSD officials, including the central enrollment system and the hearing office for students facing expulsion. OPSB doesn’t have the policies or systems in place it will need to manage all the schools.

OPSB remains dysfunctional on many levels. It took the board 2½ years to hire a new superintendent. They have not been able to build consensus and pass new policies, even on easy issues that would bring OPSB into compliance with state law. And the recent indictment of former OPSB president Ira Thomas is an unfortunate reminder of the corruption that has plagued the OPSB.

Leaving the decision with charter schools is the right decision.

Current law and BESE policy allow each eligible school to decide if it wants to return to OPSB. There are more than 150 RSD charter board members in New Orleans, representing every neighborhood, every ethnicity (more than half are African-American) and many different walks of life. They have firsthand knowledge of their school and their community, and are best positioned to decide if it is time to return.

Voters don’t support returning schools now.

A recent poll shows voters don’t support returning schools to OPSB now.

Cowen Institute and The Advocate just released K-12 Education through the Public’s Eye, which measures public opinion regarding the school reforms and governance of New Orleans Public Schools. A majority of respondents:

  • Show strong support for choice over attendance zones (72%)
  • Believe charters have improved education (59%)
  • Do not support returning schools to OPSB now
    • Only 32% of voters believe it is time to return schools
    • Only 22% of voters believe a 100% elected board is the right structure for long-term governance of schools.
    • This includes Black respondents. Only 37% favored returning schools in one to two years; only 24% supported an all elected board.

The current system is working.

School and student performance continues to improve, with more students graduating from high school and more graduates better prepared for college or career.


We should not force schools to return until OPSB can demonstrate it is ready for the return of schools by passing policies that provide appropriate oversight, by showing the board is capable of working together around a shared vision for public education in New Orleans, and by earning the trust of the educators and parents who have worked so hard to turn around the failing schools.

Mandating return of schools removes all incentive for OPSB to make the improvements needed to be effective.