Front gate of Audubon Charter School in New Orleans.

High-Quality Options and Social Capital for Black Children in New Orleans

Jonas Perriott, father of a beautiful, wide-eyed three-year-old daughter, says that high-quality school options are scarce in New Orleans public schools. His best bet is to start now and get as many shots at the target until she gets in. So that means applying to highly selective Pre-K programs (like the one at Audubon Charter School) now until she is able to get in.

In the conversations I have had with families, there’s a common theme: In a post-Katrina, decentralized school system, what Black parents mourn the most is not being knowledgeable about where the best schools in the city are and how to enroll their children.

High-quality schools have always been selective in New Orleans—even before the storm. The difference is that native Black New Orleanians taught and held leadership positions within those schools, so word-of-mouth carried information into the homes of Black families.

This information source is no longer an option. Families have lost their ability to navigate the system to make it work for their children.

Black families need clear and accessible information to help them maneuver through the school system and understand enrollment processes and school options. High-quality schools are very selective and require students and their families to understand a deeply complex system of entrance matrices, tiered systems, student entrance exams and school lotteries.

This has to change. Our children and communities deserve a shot. They need a shot at life and the same type of academic preparation that their affluent, white counterparts have.

Nearly 10 years later, we have yet to see a more effective method of getting information out to our families. Parents like Jonas rely on relationships with school leaders and teachers to get information about the enrollment process; they see this as the key for their child to get a chance at attending a school like Audubon, Ben Franklin or Hynes, which are some of the highest performing public schools in the city.

Let’s be honest, if the whole city had this type of access there still wouldn’t be enough high-quality seats for our children. Black parents in New Orleans need more options for their children. This is the bigger problem and the demand we must fight to meet.

In the meantime, if the church or the native teachers are no longer the vehicle to high-quality schools, who and what are the vehicle? And how can we use resources in education reform to help us improve communication between schools and Black families?

2 Comments on “High-Quality Options and Social Capital for Black Children in New Orleans

  1. Very well said. Education is the one thing we can own for a lifetime.

  2. THANK YOU for verbalizing what I tell most of my friends who have school-age children in New Orleans. Social capital is a consolation prize to High quality educational options. But both the prize and secondary prize (which should be an inalienable right, but that’s another story) in black working and lower class New Orleans have become as scarce as finding a house in the 9th ward above sea level.

    My daughter, who has recently turned 5, currently attends one of the top private schools in the city. The cost of her tuition, fees, summer camp, uniforms, etc., would be equal to me purchasing a new vehicle every year. I afford to send her there by working my full time job as well as two part-time jobs. I am the product of Orleans parish school board schools, pre-Katrina. Other than Lusher, Audubon, Hynes and the newest Bricolage Academy, I honestly could not see my daughter attending a public school. And two years ago when I learned that a lottery for a space in these schools literally meant putting your child’s name in a basket and pulling it out; I could not put the most formative years of my daughter’s education in the hands of pure luck.

    The process of learning and navigating through the post-Katrina New Orleans school system(s) and application process (testing, etc) proved to be so foreign to me even though I have been a New Orleanian my entire life. But I would be silly to think that my own cultural capital, through my connections and people I work with and for had made it possible for me to explore options other than the public schools of New Orleans and allow my daughter a chance at her inalienable right to a high quality school and social capital.

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