An appeal court in Louisiana has ruled that the sacking of education workers that took place in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was illegal and that everyone who was fired should get two or three years back pay. Disaster capitalism has been punished, and school workers in New Orleans have won a long fight.
Right after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the New Orleans School Board sacked all of its 7,000 employees. Most were teachers, and most of them were African-American. The city was still uninhabited, and they were scattered all over the country. They only found out they had no jobs when their pay did not go into their bank accounts.
The great majority never got their jobs back. They were replaced with mostly young, mostly white teachers. It was racist. Teachers had been the backbone of the black middle class in New Orleans. It was a class attack.It was also an attack on the students. New Orleans had rapidly filled with charter schools and academies. The poorer students, the vulnerable, the rebellious, and the dignified who would not submit were crowded into a small number of underfunded public schools.
Prior to Katrina, the teachers had the largest and strongest union in New Orleans. In the nine years since, the United Teachers of New Orleans have slowly rebuilt that strength, but there’s still a way to go.
But Carter, of United Teachers of New Orleans, said he thought the anger among veteran educators had begun to subside as newer teachers — some of whom have joined the union — understood “it wasn’t the educators who were here who were the problem” before the storm. He supported what he called the “renaissance” in New Orleans education.