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A Hidden Drawback of School Reform in New Orleans: Less Money for Transit

The city’s move to charter schools has severed pre-Katrina bus partnerships that increased revenue and service.
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Lars Plougmann / Flickr

Post-Katrina New Orleans has played host to what’s been called America’s “largest experiment in school choice”—a massive conversion from a conventional public school system to one based on charters. The early returns are encouraging (if incomplete), with test scores and graduation rates on the rise. But whatever its effect on education, school reform in New Orleans has had a decidedly negative impact on another area of city life: public transportation.

The centralized Orleans Parish School Board handled school transportation before the storm. While many students walked or rode yellow buses, those who attended a school outside their home zone received passes from the Regional Transit Authority, which governs public transit in the city. Transit-riding students were no trivial group, amounting to “almost half the total student body by the time the storm hit,” according to The Times-Picayune.