Mayor Mitch Landrieu has crafted an image as a creative, modern-thinking chief executive, and last week The Daily Beast/Newsweek recognized him as such when it featured Landrieu as one of its "Most Innovative Mayors in the U.S." There's just one catch: The innovation that earned him the prized spot on the roster — the dramatic transformation of the city's public schools — wasn't exactly his.
"Under Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the Crescent City has aggressively embraced education reform," the piece says. "The result is a sea change in public education. Consider this: nationwide, just 4 percent of students attend charter schools. In New Orleans, nearly 80 percent of parents choose charters. Seven years after Katrina, the dropout rate has been cut in half, while test scores have soared by double digits."
The specific actions that Landrieu is described as taking are correct, and there's no evidence that his team oversold his role. The piece rightly points out that City Hall doesn't control the school system, and that Landrieu has championed charters, campaigned for "reform" candidates, fought for a ground-breaking $1.8 billion lump sum from FEMA to rebuild public school facilities and pursued philanthropic support. But to make him the face of the movement is as misleading as handing that honor to Gov. Bobby Jindal, an ambitious charter supporter who also gets plenty of national attention for his role in education reform.
What's true is that the movement has many shepherds, not just the mayor and the governor but people like Leslie Jacobs, Kathleen Blanco, Paul Pastorek, Paul Vallas, Landrieu's sister U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and others. The Daily Beast/Newsweek did get this much right, though: Across the nation, the makeover of New Orleans' schools is viewed as a success. Why else would it have so many parents?
— Stephanie Grace