How much did the city promise in local tax rebates for the 2024 Super Bowl? How has the Orleans Parish school district responded to parents at a closing charter school? And are so-called “super-natives” loving the city to death?
All that and more in our Week in Review. (Sign up here to get our weekly roundup delivered to your inbox.)
Thank you for helping to make May the most-read month in The Lens’ history! That reach was fueled by our exposé of an astroturfing campaign for a new power plant, which has spurred an investigation by the New Orleans City Council.
We are also proud of reporter Charles Maldonado, who accepted an award from Innocence Project New Orleans on Friday night for his investigation into fake subpoenas. Later this month, he’ll accept an award for that work from Investigative Reporters and Editors.
We couldn’t do all this work without the support of readers like you.
Oh, the Super Bowl. Money, glamour, celebrities, tourists, Clean Zones, and everything else that comes with it will be headed our way again in 2024.
The city won a (non-competitive) bid for the event in part by promising up to $800,000 in local tax rebates. Reporter Charles Maldonado reviewed the city’s 13-page-agreement with the NFL for details on what it offered.
For example, at no cost to the NFL, the city will provide 10 police officers per day and 10 per night at each team’s hotel, plus four officers at the NFL headquarters hotel and police escorts for team owners.
The city will also establish “Clean Zones” where non-NFL-sanctioned commercial activity, temporary advertising and events will not be permitted on streets or sidewalks.
Since a tear-filled meeting two weeks ago, Cypress Academy parents have had a lot of questions about why their charter school’s leadership gave up and decided to close the doors.
The school gave parents three days’ notice it would close for good. And because that decision was made so late in the enrollment process for next fall, parents had limited choices for other schools if they didn’t accept a planned transfer to another charter organization.
So the school district decided to take over.
Parents made a number of demands, including that the school district commit to running the school for three years.
Although the school district has made a concerted effort over the last two years to divest its traditional schools in favor of independent charters, it did agree to run Cypress for two years.
You know how the school district is always looking for more funding? We know where some may be.
The city appears to have improperly diverted property taxes — meant for drainage, schools, flood protection and public safety, among other things — to make contributions to several state retirement systems.
That includes about $1 million in taxes for local schools.
Dedicated taxes must be used for the purpose voters approved them for, according to state Supreme Court rulings and an Attorney General’s opinion. The Downtown Development District, which claims the city misdirected about $380,000 of its taxes between 2013 and 2018, has filed a lawsuit.
Have you noticed the growing prevalence of laptops and tablets in classrooms? The state’s website even tells parents each school’s device-to-student ratio.
The goal of this movement is to give students more control over their education and customize lessons based on their needs. Many local charter networks employ this philosophy, called personalized learning.
Supporters in New Orleans say that, so far, personalized learning has been transformative. But some admit it hasn’t been thoroughly tested.
“Personalized learning is not something you buy,” said Chris Liang-Vergara, a consultant with the Chicago organization LEAP Innovations. He helped pilot FirstLine Schools’ personalized learning programs between 2011 and 2014. “It’s a teacher practice; it’s a teacher design.”
When reporter Sharon Lurye visited 11-year-old DeVonté Trask’s classroom at KIPP Morial, he was busy playing a typing game on the computer. If he had to choose between learning from a computer or learning from a teacher, he said he’d choose the teacher.
“You can’t ask the computer questions,” he said. “The computer doesn’t understand you most of the time. You can only ask the teacher because the teacher actually has a heart.”
Lurye’s exploration of personalized learning was published in partnership with The Hechinger Report.
Columnist C.W. Cannon wonders if “super-natives,” newer transplants to the city, are suffocating it. The anxiety of authenticity, he writes, is a threat to a city that has long been known for accepting newcomers and simultaneously embracing old traditions while starting new ones.
The evolution of easy access to short-term rentals has thrust this issue further into the spotlight, he argues. Now tourists, who long for an authentic experience, want to stay in neighborhoods.
“Price is not the reason people choose Airbnb. The prices are comparable to suburban motel rooms. The wording of the ads makes clear that an “authentic” local experience is the selling point.”
Cannon doesn’t want “super-natives” to leave, they make much better neighbors than incognito tourists, he writes. But, they must understand the city they are moving into.